Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Interview With Blue Jays Catcher Jeff Mathis

He isn't known for his offense, but his numbers
have been above his career averages this season.
He recently became the Blue Jays starting catcher. Yesterday he signed a 2 year $3 Million ($1.5 Million club option in 2015) extension with the club. Today, I bring you the transcript of an interview I conducted with none other than Jeff Mathis. Unfortunately it was done before the extension was finished and announced so, I did not talk to him about it.

A 29 year old catcher from Marianna, Florida, Jeff was drafted in the 1st round during the 2001 MLB Rule 4 Draft. He made it to the majors in 2005 with the Angels, the team that drafted him, and except for a couple of stints in the minors in 2006 and 2007, has been up here ever since. Last December AA traded for him by sending SP Brad Mills to the Halos. His offense has always been lacking for what it takes to be a starter, but this year he performed well offensively while he was a backup. Due to injuries to the two catchers ahead of him on the depth chart, JP Arencibia and Travis d’Arnaud, Jeff was handed the starting duties a couple of weeks ago. His offense has sputtered, going back to around his career numbers, but like always, his defense has been superb. He leads the league in CS% at 39%, and the way he calls games has had a very positive effect on the Blue Jays pitching staff.

Now, for that interview I did.

Mathis' stance last season with the Angels.
You can see his feet are close together.
It is quite evident that you have made some changes to your swing when comparing video from past years to this season. What have you done to it that has allowed you to access your power? (Jeff’s SLG% is up by .102 points over his career average).
“Knowing that I was going to get more limited opportunities, I have simplified things and gotten back to doing things that have brought me success in the past.”
Mathis' swing/stance this season.
His feet are farther apart, which
 allows him to drive the ball more.
Is it difficult going from playing once or twice a week to everyday like you have done since JP Arencibia has gone down due to injury? How have you changed your daily routine?
“I will always approach things with the mindset that I can play every day in this league and I mentally and physically prepare myself to do that. I have tried to maintain my workout regiment throughout the season and I feel ready to help the team while JP is out. It is really unfortunate that we have lost him, but I want to try to do what I can to help the team while I am in there.”

You are one of the best defensive catchers in the game. What do you think you do differently than others that allows you to have such great success behind the plate?
“I have always tried to separate what I did offensively and defensively. No matter what was happening offensively, I have always taken a lot of pride in how I called a game or helped a staff from the 1st out to the last out. I have been around a lot of very good catching coaches during my career and I have just tried to be a sponge to learn as much as I can from them. I know that I can affect a game behind the plate as much as I can at the plate.”
Mathis goes to the mound
to talk to Ricky.
Ricky Romero has clearly been struggling of late, and you have had your first few chances of catching him. Are you do anything different in your game calling than what JP Arencibia does to try to snap Ricky out of his skid, and if yes, what?
“Ricky is a hell of a major league pitcher and he is working on some things that he believes will help him be more consistent. None of us doubt that he will be successful in doing that. He is too good of a pitcher for that not to happen. That being said, we as players all go through bumps in the road and it is our job as professionals to figure out how to keep in on the path to success. Ricky will undoubtedly do that.”
Which pitcher on the Blue Jays do you have the best connection with when it comes to knowing how to call their game to perfection?
“I try to work with each individual pitcher differently so as to do things that he is comfortable with. It is my job to help each of our guys be successful and to allow them to get into a rhythm on the mound that benefits them. This is not about me. This is about them not worrying about me or how I am doing things behind the plate so they can concentrate on being successful and executing pitches, sequences and a game plan. If I am doing that, I am doing my job.”
Hope you guys enjoyed it. I want to thank Jeff for taking time out of his busy schedule to do this with me, and hope he continues to have success with the Jays.

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