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Thor debuts, shows spring prep going to plan

MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Unlike teammate Seth Lugo, who is about to appear in his third Grapefruit League game in preparation for the World Baseball Classic, Mets starter Noah Syndergaard did not deliver his first spring inning until Friday's 11-3 win over the Astros. Way back in November, Syndergaard declined an invitation to play for Team USA, at the time citing his desire to concentrate his energies on the Mets.

Asked Friday if any part of him might regret that decision once Lugo and other teammates depart for the Classic next week, Syndergaard doubled down on his assertion.

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Unlike teammate Seth Lugo, who is about to appear in his third Grapefruit League game in preparation for the World Baseball Classic, Mets starter Noah Syndergaard did not deliver his first spring inning until Friday's 11-3 win over the Astros. Way back in November, Syndergaard declined an invitation to play for Team USA, at the time citing his desire to concentrate his energies on the Mets.

Asked Friday if any part of him might regret that decision once Lugo and other teammates depart for the Classic next week, Syndergaard doubled down on his assertion.

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"Nope, not one bit," Syndergaard said. "Because I'm a Met. Ain't nobody make it to the Hall of Fame or win a World Series by playing in the WBC."

Video: Syndergaard works over offseason to throw harder

If nothing else, Syndergaard's words are consistent with his actions. Nearly every change in the third-year pitcher's routine has been with an eye toward avoiding the types of major injuries that have befallen Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and other Mets rotation members.

Syndergaard's workout programs are unparalleled -- it's not just weightlifting that consumes him, but yoga and Pilates. He customizes every ounce of his diet, placing an emphasis in particular on juicing. Following Friday's game, Mets manager Terry Collins even debunked Syndergaard's assertion that he gained 15 pounds of muscle this winter, revealing that he weighed in three pounds lighter than last spring.

And Syndergaard has embraced the Mets' spring mantra of limiting their top starting pitchers. That is not only why he declined taking part in the Classic and its promise of added strain on his arm, but also why he did not make his Grapefruit League debut until Friday.

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When he did finally toe the rubber against the Astros, Syndergaard demonstrated many of the same abilities that made him a National League Cy Young Award candidate last year. He hit 99 mph on the stadium radar gun, sitting regularly at 97. Syndergaard was admittedly a bit rusty -- he walked two batters and allowed a hit, striking out one -- but still needed just 29 pitches to complete two innings.

In particular, Syndergaard cited the sharpness of his changeup as reason for optimism. Using it to strike out Marwin Gonzalez in the first inning, Syndergaard says he trusts in that pitch more now than last year, when he threw it just 11.1 percent of the time.

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"It has the potential to be my best swing-and-miss pitch," Syndergaard said. "It's got a lot more deception to it. ... I love throwing it. There's nothing better to see than throwing a real wicked changeup and getting a hitter to 'Tasmanian Devil' into the batter's box. It's a good feeling."

Now that he is appearing in Grapefruit League games, Syndergaard will ramp up his workload throughout March. He is scheduled to start the Mets' April 3 opener against the Braves, his World Baseball Classic decision long in the past.

"[Today] was step one of getting him ready for the next four weeks," Collins said. "I know it's an honor to pitch for your country and all that stuff. But this kid's at the beginning of a very, very long and successful career. I thought he did the right thing."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

New York Mets, Noah Syndergaard