If the case being made for Opening Day against the St. Louis Cardinals at Citi Field in two weeks was based on the current Grapefruit League results, the selection of Syndergaard by manager Mickey Callaway would have been a no-brainer.
Despite an 0-2 record, the tall right-hander has allowed just seven hits and two earned runs in 13 innings over four starts, sporting a 1.38 ERA. He has struck out 18 and walked six, and batters are hitting just .152 against him.
Syndergaard had the assignment last year against Atlanta. The previous back-to-back Opening Day starter for the Mets was Johan Santana, who did it three seasons consecutively from 2008-10.
Jacob deGrom, Syndergaard's competition for the Opening Day assignment, will pitch the second game of the series on March 31.
deGrom left camp for the birth of his daughter last month and also battled back stiffness. The down time prevented deGrom from being able to make the first start against the Cardinals, which was an honor Callaway and pitching coach Dave Eiland felt the DeLand native earned.
Syndergaard said deGrom should have had the start, but Syndergaard was just happy his lockermate was healthy and ready to make the season's second start two days later.
"Jake had a tremendous year last year," Syndergaard said. "He was the backbone of our pitching staff. Kudos to him for 200-plus innings and 240-something strikeouts. That's incredible. He definitely deserved it.
"He's healthy now, and I'm excited to see that."
The waiting is the hardest part Outfielder Michael Conforto continues to make great strides in his recovery from surgery on Sept. 6 to repair a tear in his posterior capsule of his left shoulder.
He said patience may be his best mental approach right now because the toughest obstacle for Conforto comes straight from a song by the late Tom Petty and his band the Heartbreakers.
"The waiting. Waiting has been the hardest part," the 25-year-old said. "After the few swings that felt great and felt healthy, I didn't really have any hesitation after that. I felt like I could do things the same way.
"After those, it's just been waiting -- waiting to build up my swings and get back out there on the field. Now I'm back out there on the field. I've just got to get in some live situations. I've been doing everything else normal."
Familia being himself Callaway was impressed by the perfect sixth inning from Jeurys Familia in Thursday's 7-6 loss to the Marlins, the reliever's first appearance in a week after complaining of a sore arm.
"Way more arm speed, better sink, better action on his two-seamer. I thought he was more Familia-like than he had been," Callaway said.
Productive day off First baseman Adrian Gonzalez wasn't in the lineup for the Miami game, so the veteran went to the back fields. The 35-year-old lefty hitter was 5-for-8 with two doubles in Minor League games against visiting teams.
"He chose to go over to the Minor League side on his day off and get at-bats. He got eight at-bats in real games. He's going to put the work in to be the best he can be," said Callaway.
Healthy expectations Hall of Famer John Smoltz was at the Mets' facility on Thursday filming MLB Network's "30 Clubs in 30 Days." The former Atlanta Braves pitcher said he believes the Mets have lofty goals this season after a rough 70-92 campaign in 2017.
"I think that they're creating an opportunity," Smoltz said. "You can't have happen what happened last year [health-wise]. You can't sustain that. No club can.
"So if they can find the amount of arms that doesn't tax the bullpen to a point where it exposes the bullpen, then you've got -- I firmly believe -- what is a playoff team based on the expectation."
Up next The Mets will send out deGrom on Friday to make his second spring start, facing the Baltimore Orioles and Andrew Cashner at First Data Field in a 1:10 p.m. ET start on MLB.TV.