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Praise For Mata

P>MONTREAL–He doesn’t have a prototypical pitcher’s body or overwhelming stuff, but righthander Gustavo Mata continues to produce sterling numbers.

Signed out of Venezuela by former director of international operations Fred Ferreira in November 2000, the 19-year-old Mata is making rapid progress.

Mata, a 6-foot-1, 210-pounder, was 2-0, 0.60 for high Class A Brevard County. He allowed 20 hits and four walks in 30 innings while striking out 15. That prompted the Expos to bump him up to Double-A Harrisburg, making him the youngest player in the Eastern League.

"He has good work habits, tremendous control, and induces ground balls," minor league pitching coordinator Brent Strom said. "He has a cut fastball which is an out pitch with natural cut. He can sink and cut the ball very well and is very poised. He also moves well as a pitcher, and is very athletic for a big guy. He’s worked very hard at getting where he is right now."

Mata, who was 1-0, 2.92 after 12 innings with the Senators, battles hitters with an 88-90 mph fastball, an improving curve he’s using more, and a solid change. He’s praised by Expos officials for his workmanlike demeanor on the mound, while his infectious, outgoing attitude off the field makes him a hit with teammates.

"He’s not overpowering, but he does a good job of keeping the ball down, can spin a breaking ball for a strike and constantly puts the ball in play," Strom said. "He’s pretty straightforward in his delivery, but it’s very hard for the hitters to get good swings because of the little cutter that he throws.

"It’s like Mariano Rivera’s, but without the same velocity. It’s just a natural cut . . . Guys just don’t make solid contact on the pitch."


• Julio Manon has been outstanding for Triple-A Edmonton. In his first 19 innings he allowed 12 hits and two earned runs while striking out 26 and walking eight. Manon, who also had seven saves, has been 93-94 mph with his fastball almost every time out.

• The Expos had their pitchers in extended spring training throw 85-90 percent fastballs the first month. It cut down on strikeouts but taught players to pitch with their fastballs and helped build velocity. Clint Everts, Isaiah Wright, Brett Nyquist and Roberto Martinez had been throwing well.

• Previous organization report: Josh McKinley

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