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Indians notebook: Q&A with Michael Matuella

Michael Matuella will start Friday when the Spokane Indians open their Northwest League season. (Courtesy photo)
Michael Matuella will start Friday when the Spokane Indians open their Northwest League season. (Courtesy photo)

As alluded to in our previous update on Matuella, the Indians’ opening day starter was in Spokane for the Indians’ recent series with Tri-City to take a break from rehabbing his sprained ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) at the Texas Rangers' facility in Surprise, Arizona.

I caught up with Matuella about what he misses about Spokane, what he’s doing for his rehab and reliving the moment when he reinjured his throwing elbow. The full interview is included below.

(What’s it like being back with the team in Spokane for a little bit?)

I think the best part is being back with the team again. I didn’t get much exposure to Spokane, but the limited exposure I did get was awesome. The fans were great, loved being out here with the team. The environment was awesome. So to be back here, in a little cooler weather — although I seem to have brought some of the warm weather with me back from Arizona — it’s definitely nice to mix it up and to be in a real competitive game atmosphere with fans going nuts.

(You’re in that competitive atmosphere. Does the player in you wish you could be on the field sometimes?)

For sure. It’s definitely tough watching people pitch and knowing how hard I worked to get back healthy. And then to suffer the setback, it’s unfortunate. I’m just moving forward and doing everything I need to do to put myself in the best position to come back healthy as soon as I can. But there’s no rush for that.

(What kind of things are you doing for your rehab?)

I’m taking it very easy with stuff I can grip and just giving my elbow as much rest as I can right now. We’re doing a lot laser and ultrasound work, just treatments on the elbow. And I’m still doing some light shoulder work, but just stuff I don’t have to grip dumbells for. Maybe attach a wrist wait instead of dumbells and doing shoulder work that way. Really avoiding any forearm work right now. Giving the injection time to do its thing. I’m not trying to lose too much strength, so I’m doing as much shoulder stuff as I can. Just trying to be smart with everything.

(What was going through your mind in that last inning of your first start when you started to feel arm discomfort?)

It’s kind of tough to say what was going through my mind, because when I think back on it, I kind of went into a mental fog. I felt it on one pitch. The first two innings I felt awesome. And there was one pitch, I couldn’t even tell you the pitch, I know it was early on in the inning and I threw one and it definitely didn’t feel right in there. I lost my focus there for a little bit. I was just thinking about my elbow and thinking is this actually happening? Am I actually feeling pain? Is this actually happening? I never felt it pop, so I wasn’t concerned about that. It was tough because I was feeling so good and to feel pain again, it was obviously very concerning for me.

It ended up being not terrible. It could have been a lot worse, which I’m fortunate for. I’m trying to see the positive in everything. It was a lot of frustration and almost just disbelief. I didn’t even believe it was actually hurting, even though of course it was. It’s kind of like a wake-me up kind of moments.

(You didn’t tell the coaches until after the game. Was that just because you didn’t quite believe that was happening?)

That was definitely it. I was giving it time to calm down. I didn’t want to say anything right off the bat, in case I was being overly cautious with it. So I gave it some time afterward to see if it would settle down, and I knew it wasn’t right. I was trying to stretch it out, trying to straighten my arm, bend my arm and I knew it wasn’t just normal soreness.

I thought what if I were to say nothing and keep going. I never felt a pop, who knows maybe it would just go away. But I just kind of thought, if I had to go out and do this in five days, would I be able to pitch? And the answer in my head was no. So that’s why I brought it up.

I learned my lesson from last time not to try and hide anything. It was about an hour after I came out I told the training staff, because at that point, my body had cooled down. I’ve given it time to see if it would maybe feel a little better after not throwing. I knew something wasn’t right in there.

(What was that conversation like when you told the training and coaching staff about the discomfort in your elbow?)

I think they thought I was pranking them a little bit. I wish I was pranking them. But as soon as they saw I was serious we went up into the clubhouse and into the training room and checked it out, moved it around a little bit. (They) decided to get an MRI.

They were of course giving me as much attention as I needed. They weren’t going to try and push me and do anything I wasn’t comfortable with. They were really good about being on top of things and getting the MRI as soon as we possibly could get it.

The training staff was great, the coaching staff was great and they were really supportive of me, which I was really appreciative of.

(Were you on a plane the morning after your injury?)

Sunday morning. So I was there for the Saturday game and then I headed out that Sunday morning to head down to Texas to get that MRI and to see the doctor.

(Did you have a feeling that this was going to be it for you this season?)

I don’t know. I think I was playing really every scenario in my head. Maybe it was just a slight twinge to something other than the UCL. And then there was of course, what if I actually did some damage again. So there was that head running through my head and everything in between. I don’t think I expected one thing going into it, but I was kind of preparing myself for all outcomes.

(Do you know what the Rangers plan is for you moving forward?)

We’re giving the injection time. We’re going to get the elbow rescanned in a couple weeks and probably rescanned again a few weeks after that just to see how everything is doing. A lot of what the plan is going to be is to be based on what the MRIs look like moving forward and just what the overall picture looks like. We’re not going to assume anything right, we’re just going to wait and I’m going to do everything I can to avoid putting any stress on my elbow and giving it time to heal.

(How is it being in Arizona, rehabbing every day and being away from baseball?)

Of course I wish I was playing. I wish I was with the team and out there pitching. But at this point it’s out of my control. Arizona was the best spot for me to go ahead and rehab and work on strength and conditioning and get the necessary treatments. I feel lucky we have such a great facility down then and a great staff down there that has my best interests at heart, and that’s really assuring to know that.


Game Notes

Last Night: Spokane couldn’t pick up its first series sweep of the year, falling to Tri-City 3-0 in the finale. Joey Lucchesi has a long, methodical windup that’s effective on the mound. Read story.

Tonight: The Indians begin a three-game series with Everett, with first pitch scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Follow @joshhorton22 on twitter for live updates. 

Josh Horton
Josh Horton is a summer intern at The Spokesman-Review and is covering the Spokane Indians baseball team.

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