Thor says he's ready for OD after 7-inning gem

Righty holds O's regulars to one run with five K's, expected to make one more spring start

March 18th, 2018

SARASOTA, Fla. -- Mets right-hander has pronounced himself ready for Opening Day. He was overpowering, efficient and crafty -- all of that and more -- in Sunday's 5-4 win against the Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium.

"I feel like my progression this spring has been really nice," Syndergaard said. "I'm ready to get out of Florida and get back to New York."

Syndergaard pitched a spring-high seven innings and allowed eight hits while striking out five and walking none. In five spring starts, Syndergaard is 1-2 with a 1.35 ERA. He has six walks and 23 strikeouts in 20 innings pitched.

When he walked off the mound after the sixth inning, Mets fans in the crowd gave him a standing ovation. Then he returned for the seventh.

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"His pitch count was so low," Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. "He did such a good job of keeping that down that we sent him back out."

Syndergaard was at 72 pitches after six. He needed just 13 more pitches to get out of the seventh.

"He was nasty ... really nasty," said Mets catcher , who spurred New York's offense with a solo home run and a two-run double and threw out a basestealer. "Everything was working -- four-seam, two-seam, curveball, slider and changeup were all working. He was able to put them all on both sides of the plate. We were able to effectively mix up sequences and have some fun out there.

"I could tell in the bullpen he had it today. He was spotting up everything. I knew it was going to be a fun day."

Syndergaard, who will be the Mets' first back-to-back Opening Day pitcher since Johan Santana (2008-10), missed five months last season with a strained right lat. He made just seven starts, finishing at 1-2 with a 2.97 ERA after winning 14 games in '16.

Now Syndergaard is healthy. He has full command of his pitches, and in a calculated move that required plenty of offseason work, he's coming to the plate much quicker, allowing his catchers more time to throw out potential basestealers.

What has Callaway seen?

"I see him pitching," Callaway said. "He's not just trying to blow everybody away. He's staying within himself. He's using his pitches really well. It's hard to say he's staying within himself when he's throwing a 94-mph slider in the seventh, but he really is. He has been just outstanding. He's mixing up his pitches and not being predictable. He's getting ahead, so you don't have to get in a fastball count and throw a fastball."

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The strikeouts have been there, but Syndergaard said he's probably more pleased with his ability to pitch to contact.

"I just try to throw it where I wanted," he said. "If they decided to hit it in play, that's their own doing. It saves me bullets. It allows me to go deeper into games."

Syndergaard is expected to get one more spring start -- "maybe 50 pitches, touch and feel, just get ready for Opening Day'' -- before his scheduled start on March 29 against the Cardinals in New York.

If Sunday's performance is any indication, he's already ready for the regular season.

"I thought I was very efficient," Syndergaard said. "I had fastball command early in the game. The slider felt real nice coming out of my hand. It was just a lot of fun playing fundamental baseball on all sides of the field.

"I really didn't know what my pitch count was. I was going to pitch until somebody told me to stop."