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Mathieson to Debut Saturday

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Reports are that the Phillies will recall 22 year-old AA pitcher Scott Mathieson from Reading to pitch Saturday against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and their emerging lefty ace Scott Kazmir. By my count, this will make the Canadian native the sixth Phillie to play his first major-league game this season, following Carlos Ruiz, Chris Coste, Chris Roberson, Cole Hamels and Brian Sanches.

I don't know what the team record is for most debuts in a season, but I can't imagine that it was set in a year when the team expected to contend, as is the case with the 2006 Phils. Of the first five, only Hamels was particularly ballyhooed, and he and maybe Ruiz are the two players in the bunch I wouldn't be surprised to see on the 2007 roster. Mathieson doesn't have Hamels's first-round pedigree, babelicious celebrity girlfriend or jaw-dropping changeup, but in terms of hyped and promising young players, he's a lot closer to King Cole than to, say, Eude Brito. Through 13 starts for Reading, Mathieson has a 6-2 record, a 3.05 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 85.2 IP. (He's also got two homers at the plate, which I think puts him near the team lead for the offense-challenged R-Phils.)

Here's Mike Drago of the Reading Eagle on the fireballing righty:

The Phillies may be lacking offensive prospects on their Double-A club, but they've got some pitchers here, and Mathieson is clearly the best of them right now.

At this point he projects as a Curt Schilling type, a power pitcher with durability and heart. And some fire in his belly.

He showed that last week, when he wasn't afraid to come inside against Connecticut, and wasn't afraid to mix it up when the benches cleared. Mathieson was right in the middle of the brawl, taking it as good as he was dishing it out.

There has been talk in the past of converting "Matty" to the closer's role, but the Phillies would be crazy to be thinking about that right now.

They've got a horse on their hands, a legitimate finisher, and guys like that are hard to come across.

He's got a big arm and he's just now getting the hang of his slider, which he picked up last fall, ditching his curveball.

Though Mathieson is likely here just for a cameo--he'll presumably return to the minors, probably to AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, whenever Jon Lieber or Randy Wolf returns from the DL--his appearance should remind us that for Pat Gillick and the Phillies, 2006 is a year of transition. The team's great organizational strength is young pitching, from Hamels and Mathieson to Gio Gonzalez, J.A. Happ, Carlos Carrasco and a handful of others. In addition to Utley and Howard at the major league level, this is what Gillick wants to build around--and what, perhaps to our momentary frustration but long-term appreciation, he might well decline to trade for more immediate help this summer.

Also, just try and say that you'd rather see a Paul Abbott retread type than a sneak peak at a hopefully brighter future. Suffice it to say that Ed Wade, who preferred his prospects either encased in bubble wrap or traded for old relievers who Know How to Pitch, likely wouldn't have gone this way.