The Phillies recalled Mathieson from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Thursday to take Antonio Bastardo's place on the 25-man roster. The Phillies placed Bastardo on the 15-day disabled list with ulnar neuritis in his left elbow. It is Mathieson's first time in the big leagues since Sept. 2, 2006, when he injured his right elbow in a start against the Atlanta Braves.
Two Tommy John surgeries and one other elbow surgery later, Mathieson is in the Phillies bullpen.
It wasn't easy.
"Right after Spring Training usually, it was the toughest driving to the field," Mathieson said Thursday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. "There were many days when I would pull over and stop and [want to] turn around. That was tough. I'd be stuck in traffic, pull over and say, 'What am I doing?' It's well worth it now."
Mathieson, 26, went 1-4 with a 7.47 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts) with the Phillies in 2006. He injured his elbow Sept. 2 and had his first Tommy John surgery Sept. 29. He made seven rehab appearances in August 2007, but felt more discomfort in the elbow and required ulnar nerve transposition surgery Sept. 24, 2007.
Mathieson had his second Tommy John surgery May 15, 2008.
The chances of returning to the big leagues following two Tommy John surgeries are roughly 20 percent, but Mathieson did it.
"It's an amazing feat," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said.
Mathieson went 2-2 with a 2.43 ERA and 12 saves in 25 appearances with Lehigh Valley. His fastball has touched 99 mph, but has consistently sat at 96 mph. He said his slider and changeup have improved, which were two of the things the Phillies wanted Mathieson working on in the Minor Leagues.
"I think they're improving," Amaro said of Mathieson's secondary pitches. "He's still working on them. The velocity obviously is there."