Farm fresh: Reliever Matt West wouldn’t let one bad pitch change him
By Cary Osborne
In the eighth inning of a Spring Training game at the Brewers’ Maryvale Baseball Park on March 20, Dodger pitcher Matt West — a non-roster player who appeared in two games for the team last season — threw a fastball that got away from him.
Milwaukee’s Rymer Liriano couldn’t get away from it and was hit in the face. Liriano was on the ground for nearly 10 minutes.
It’s the sort of pitch that can affect two people negatively. Unfortunately, Liriano is yet to play in 2016. He suffered facial fractures and is currently on the 60-day disabled list.
West said it’s still tough to talk about, but he has not let the incident change him as a pitcher.
In fact, statistically he has been the best reliever in the Dodger organization in 2016.
The 27-year-old has gone 14 1/3 innings without allowing a run for the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers. And one of the biggest keys has been his command.
West has walked only one batter this season. He went seven appearances before he walked his first.
He reflected on the spring incident and how, as a pitcher, he couldn’t let it weigh on him.
“You definitely feel bad,” West said. “You’re definitely not trying to hit someone in the head. It’s almost like you still have a job to do. I’ve had tons of stuff go wrong in my life. (I’ve been) able to overcome adversity. When you’re out there (on the mound), you have to get over it. When you’re done and the inning’s over, then the feeling comes in and you feel bad for what you did. But in the moment you have to overcome it, or it could trigger a downward spiral of an outing.”
Some of that adversity included being hit in the face by a pitch himself. West started his pro career as a third baseman in the Texas Rangers organization. He said he was hit in the face twice, and didn’t see the ball coming in both situations.
West said in 2012, he pitched with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. In 2013 he had Tommy John surgery.
The Dodgers acquired him in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays on May 4, 2015, and he appeared in games on June 20 and 21, pitching three scoreless innings.
He came to Spring Training off the 40-man roster, but said he made the most of his time in Arizona by working with Rick Honeycutt on some mechanical adjustments. He also said being pain-free has allowed him to stay with the adjustments and repeat his delivery.
Thus, he’s having success in Oklahoma City with the Triple-A club. He has struck out 15 batters to just the one walk and has allowed eight hits.
West still has a tall hill to climb to make it back to the big leagues. The Oklahoma City team is stocked with relievers with big league experience — including Luis Avilan and Ian Thomas, who are on the 40-man roster — as well as up-and-comers.
West remains positive.
“Whether I’m in the big leagues or I’m playing slow-pitch softball, it’s a game and as long as I’m doing something I love, things will play out in the end,” West said.