Patience pays off for 51s’ Mathews

Stuck behind three former big leaguers in the 51s’ outfield this season, career minor leaguer Aaron Mathews’ playing time has been scarce.

But the hard-nosed seventh-year pro has made the most of his opportunities, batting .340 (35-for-103) with six home runs and 16 RBIs in 28 games.

Mathews, who homered Thursday and went 1-for-4 in Friday’s 9-5 victory over Reno at Cashman Field, has played in eight of the 51s’ past nine games and is expected to see significant action the rest of the season now that the parent Toronto Blue Jays have parted ways with former Las Vegas outfielders Chris Aguila, Jorge Padilla and Jeremy Reed.

“He’s going to get a lot of playing time coming up, so hopefully we’ll get a chance to see what he’s made of,” 51s manager Dan Rohn said. “He’s an aggressive kid at the plate, base running and in the outfield. He’s an aggressive cowboy by nature, that’s what he is.”

A 19th-round draft pick of the Blue Jays in 2004, Mathews played all of last season for Las Vegas, batting .274 and setting career highs in games (132), hits (142) and RBIs (77) while leading the Pacific Coast League in outfield assists (17).

But the 5-foot-10-inch, 215-pounder only hit eight homers in 518 at-bats and has yet to hit more than nine in a season, something Rohn said must change if Mathews ever is to play in the majors.

“He’s got tremendous power, but he’s got to utilize it. He hasn’t hit for power in the past,” he said. “He needs to put 20 homers on the board in 300 at-bats to open some eyes.”

Mathews was placed on the disabled list for the third time this season on May 31 after he suffered a groin injury while leaping for a ball in left field in a game against Tacoma at Cashman Field. But it was the only time he’s been injured this year. He previously was placed on the DL on April 15 and May 3 to create space on the roster.

“Knowing that I want to go out there and perform every day, it is frustrating. But at the same time, I just have to wait for my chances, and I have to flourish with my chances,” Mathews said. “I’m just trying to play as hard as I can and do what I have to do to stay in the lineup. I can’t control anything other than that.”

The 28-year-old Mathews remains confident he’ll make it to the majors one day.

“More than confident,” he said. “One of these days. I’ve just got to be patient.”

■ NOTE — Toronto placed right-hander Shaun Marcum on the 15-day DL, optioned third baseman Jarrett Hoffpauir to the 51s, recalled left-hander Marc Rzepczynski from Las Vegas and selected the contract of third baseman Edwin Encarnacion from the 51s. To make room on their 40-man roster, the Blue Jays outrighted Las Vegas outfielder Jeremy Reed, who elected to become a free agent. Toronto also sent right-hander Rey Gonzalez from the 51s to Double-A New Hampshire and promoted right-hander Bubbie Buzachero to Las Vegas from New Hampshire.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0354.

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