Our ‘Phillies 50‘ series on the most random 1971-2019 Philadelphia Phillies players moves along to the pitcher who combined low impact on the 2010 Phillies ball club combined with a minimal big-league career.
Right-hander Scott Mathieson was the 17th round selection of the Phillies in the 2002 MLB Draft out of Aldergrove Community Secondary School in British Columbia, Canada where Mathieson grew up in the Vancouver area.
His father, Doug Mathieson, had been a minor league pitcher who went on to found the Langley Blaze, a youth team for whom Scott was playing when drafted by the Phillies. Doug continues to run that league, and is also the Canadian scout for the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
In that first pro summer of 2002, Scott was assigned to the Phillies rookie-level team in the Gulf Coast League, beginning a normal years-long progression through the minor league system. By 2005, Mathieson had risen to High-A Clearwater and was named to the World team for the mid-season All-Star Futures Game.
After that 2005 season concluded Mathieson was given an opportunity to pitch in the Arizona Fall League. He was also named by Baseball America as the sixth-best of an increasingly respected Phillies prospect group behind only Ryan Howard, Gavin Floyd, Cole Hamels, Greg Golson, and Michael Bourn.
At age 22, Mathieson would split the 2006 season between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre. However, he would also be given his first shot at the big-leagues during that summer as well.
On June 17, 2006 Mathieson made his Major League Baseball debut in a Saturday night start at Citizens Bank Park against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He would last six innings, scattering eight hits and allowing four earned runs while striking out five and walking two. Two of those runs and three of the hits came in his first inning, when he also committed a balk.
Mathieson largely settled down after that point. The last batter he faced, Jonny Gomes, laced a two-out RBI double to put the DRays on top by 3-2. But on that hit, a Pat Burrell to Jimmy Rollins to Sal Fasano relay nailed Toby Hall at the plate for the final out to save Mathieson more trouble. The Phillies went on to lose a 7-2 game and Mathieson was charged with the loss in that first outing.
Manager Charlie Manuel, in his second season at the Phillies helm, would send Mathieson to the mound three more times over the next few weeks, including giving him two more starts.
On July 5, 2006 he produced what would prove to be the best performance of his big-league career. On a Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park, Mathieson went eight solid innings against the San Diego Padres, matching Jake Peavy pitch-for-pitch and allowing three earned runs and six hits. He left with the game tied at 3-3, but the Phillies bullpen would blow it in the top of the 9th in what became a 6-3 loss.
Sent back to the minors after that start, Mathieson was called up again in early August. On August 1, 2006 he would earn his only career big-league win. At Busch Stadium in Saint Louis he walked five of the host Cardinals batters over his five innings that night but limited the damage to three earned runs by yielding just three hits. A home run by Howard leading off the top of the 5th inning put the Phillies ahead to stay, and Phillies relievers Geoff Geary, Arthur Rhodes, and Tom Gordon held that lead the rest of the way.
Manuel kept Mathieson in his rotation for three more regular turns during August but he couldn’t get out of the 5th inning in any of them. On August 17, 2006 Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado of the New York Mets crushed back-to-back homers off him leading off the top of the 5th inning at Citizens Bank Park. Mathieson was lifted and removed from the rotation.
He got one more shot that year on September 2, 2006 in a start at home against the Atlanta Braves. It would prove disastrous, but not because of what happened on the score card.
Mathieson struck Pete Orr out swinging as the first batter he faced in the top of the 1st inning. But Orr would reach first anyway on what was a wild pitch. It would be the final pitch Mathieson would throw for nearly a year. Driven from the game by an elbow problem, he would ultimately require Tommy John surgery.
His final numbers over that 2006 season revealed 48 hits allowed over 37.1 innings across nine outings, eight of those as starts. He struck out 28 and walked 16, accumulating a 7.47 ERA and 1.714 WHIP.
Many pitchers require a year or a little more to fully recover from that surgery and return to action. Mathieson would not be one of them. In fact, he battled for the next three years. He made seven appearances, four starts, late in the 2007 season and then missed all of 2008.
Switched to the bullpen for 2009 in an effort to preserve his right arm as he tried another comeback, Mathieson began to have success. Over 22 games across three levels he produced a 1.95 ERA, allowing just 17 hits over 32.1 innings with a 34/12 K:BB ratio. That got him another shot at the Arizona Fall League where he continued strong over 22 appearances.
Mathieson would indeed work his way all the way back to the big-leagues, but only for a half-dozen outings spread across the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
For that 2010 Phillies team for which he was chosen to represent here as having had low impact, Mathieson would make just two appearances, both at Citizens Bank Park. On June 18 he allowed two earned runs to the Minnesota Twins during a 9-5 Phillies victory. On September 5 he surrendered two hits, walked two, and allowed an unearned run in a 6-2 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Over parts of three seasons in Major League Baseball, all with the Phillies, Mathieson produced a 1-4 record with a 6.75 ERA and 1.886 WHIP, allowing 62 hits over 44 total innings across 15 appearances, eight of those starts. He had a 34/21 K:BB ratio.
On July 5, 2011 at Sun Life Stadium against the host Florida Marlins on what was the fifth anniversary of his best Phillies start, Mathieson appeared on a mound in a big-league game for the final time.
Hamels had pitched eight strong innings and left with a 14-2 lead. Mathieson entered to mop things up in the bottom of the 9th inning. After surrendering a single and double to the first two batters he faced, Mathieson struck out both Brett Hayes and Emilio Bonifacio. He then hit Omar Infante with a pitch to load the bases, but retired Gaby Sanchez on a pop-up to shortstop Jimmy Rollins. As he and the team exchanged congratulations, Mathieson walked off a big-league mound for the final time.
I should amend that a bit. Mathieson walked off an American big-league mound for the final time. Signing for 2012 with the Yomiuri Giants in the Japanese Central League, the righty began a highly-successful eight year run in Japan.
Over his eight seasons with Yomiuri, Mathieson pitched in 421 games, all in relief. He won 27 games, accumulated 54 saves, and registered a 2.46 ERA with 492 strikeouts over 431 innings pitched. During his first season the Giants won the Japan Series championship, and they won four Central League crowns as well during his years with the club.
Mathieson also was honored during his career to pitch for his native Canada in the World Baseball Classics of 2006, 2013, and 2017 as well as the 2019 Premier 12 tournament. He retired following the 2019 season after helping Yomiuri to the Central League title. Mathieson hoped to go out on one last hurrah, pitching for Canada at the Tokyo Olympics this coming summer.
“That’s one of my main goals, to have the last time I pitch in a competitive game be in Japan while wearing a Canada jersey,” Mathieson said in a phone interview with Melissa Couto of The Canadian Press. “I had the majority of my success in Japan, so to be able to finish it there while representing my own country, that’s the dream. That’s the goal I’m working towards.”
Unfortunately for Mathieson and everyone associated with those Olympic Games, the athletic competition became yet another victim of the coronavirus pandemic. With the Olympics postponed indefinitely, it remains to be seen whether the now 36-year-old will return to the mound one more time.
One thing that can be said for Scott Mathieson: Unlike most others throughout this series, despite the minimum impact he made on Major League Baseball and the minute contribution he made to the 2010 Phillies in particular, he overcame injury and enjoyed many successful years pitching at a high level, even though he had to go overseas in order to enjoy that success.