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Michael Matuella pitched well last night

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Michael Matuella had 5 shutout innings for Hickory last night

Seattle Mariners v Texas Rangers Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Texas Rangers pitcher Michael Matuella, their third round pick in 2015 who missed that season and virtually all of 2016 due to Tommy John surgery and a strained UCL ligament, has been toiling at low-A Hickory this season. Last night, Matuella had his best outing as a professional, pitching five innings for the first time and allowing 0 runs on 3 hits, striking out 4 against no walks.

Matuella has a 5.11 ERA in 37 innings this season, spread over 13 games, but his peripherals are strong -- 36 strikeouts against 7 walks, with just 3 home runs allowed. He’s had three disaster outings, but the overall body of work is encouraging, with the focus in 2017 being to stay healthy and getting used to pitching again after the significant layoff.

Matuella was a potentially #1 overall pick in 2015 before he was waylaid by back issues and then Tommy John surgery, and his stuff is probably the best in the Rangers’ system. It is going to take time for him to get his command back to where it was pre-injury, after missing so much time, but just the fact he’s been able to stay on the mound and throw in the mid- to upper-90s at this point is very promising.

If 2017 goes well for Matuella, one would think that he would start 2018 at high-A Down East, with the possibility of being moved up to AA Frisco at some point during the year if things go well. It remains to be seen whether Matuella will be able to be a starter or if he will need to move to the bullpen, but regardless, one has to feel cautiously optimistic about him at this point, given how his season has progressed.