DURHAM, N.C. — Thought to be headed for a big payday at this June’s Major League Baseball draft, Duke pitcher Michael Matuella is headed for surgery instead.
Duke announced Wednesday that the hard throwing right-hander, bothered with forearm tightness and elbow issues since February, will have Tommy John surgery that will end his season.
Baseball America reported that the 6-6, 220-pound Matuella has a completely torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow and will need to have the ligament replaced.
The ace of Duke’s staff who was projected to be among the first five players selected this June, Matuella made six starts and pitched only 25 innings. He struck out 24 batters, walking 11, while compiling a 1-1 record with a 1.08 ERA.
“Over the last three years Michael Matuella showed premium talent we have rarely seen in college baseball,” Duke coach Chris Pollard said.
“He has also demonstrated tremendous character, leadership and work ethic. While we are all disappointed with the timing of his injury, I have total confidence he will make a full recovery and have a long and successful pitching career.
In addition to Matuella’s injury, Duke also announced relief pitcher Nick Hendrix will miss the rest of the season after suffering a head injury during a March 18 game with Columbia.
Hendrix was 1-1 with a 3.95 ERA and 11 strikeouts in 13.2 innings this season.
“Nick Hendrix has consistently been one of the top relief specialists in the ACC,” Pollard said.
“He is a fearless competitor and a tremendous leader for our program, both on and off the field. We will miss his pitching ability and leadership over the second half of the season, but we are looking forward to his full recovery.”
Back pain limited Matuella to 11 starts and 58.1 innings of work in 2014. He impressed by striking out 69 batters.
He didn’t pitch any summer league baseball last year, choosing instead to work on strengthening his back to avoid a reoccurrence of his painful back condition.
He began practice with Duke in January by declaring himself healthy and ready for a full season. He threw six scoreless innings on Feb. 13 in Duke’s season-opening 7-1 win at California, striking out eight batters.
After the game, he said everything felt good and smooth. But Mutuella was held out of games for the next two weeks due to tightness in his right forearm.
Matuella returned to pitching on March 1 but threw only 23 pitches against Rider.
Six days later, Matualla threw three scoreless innings against rival North Carolina at Boshamer Stadium in Chapel Hill.
On March 13, Matuella pitched four scoreless innings against Georgia Tech at Jack Coombs Field. He allowed just three hits and one walk while striking out four.
One week later, on March 20, Matuella appeared to have found his groove for the season. Against Pittsburgh, he pitched a season-high 6.1 innings, receiving a no decision in a game Duke eventually won 5-3.
Matuella allowed five hits and two runs, but only one was earned. He struck out five.
But last Friday, Matuella wasn’t the same pitcher in what would be in his final appearance of the season. Against Boston College, Matuella suffered his only loss of the season as he struck out six batters in 4.2 innings, but walked a career-high five.
Boston College struck for six runs, only two earned, on five hits off Matuella and the Eagles won the game 6-1.
“I appreciate all the tremendous support we have received from the Duke medical staff,” Pollard said. “A sincere thanks to our athletic trainer Aldo Plata, our team orthopaedic surgeon Dean Taylor and all the great folks at Duke University Hospital who have supported Michael and Nick.”
This article was written by Steve Wiseman from The Herald-Sun, Durham, N.C. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.