Matz ready for his Major League debut
NEW YORK -- While the rest of Mets organization sees their powerful left and right arms, working almost in tandem, well into the future, Steven Matz and Jacob deGrom can delve back to the past.
After all, it wasn't that long ago the two struck up a friendship as their careers hung in a sort of simultaneous limbo after both underwent Tommy John surgery. Matz and deGrom both spent 2011 rehabbing in Port St. Lucie, Fla., with barely any professional baseball experience under their belts. At that point, Saturday didn't feel anywhere close.
"It seemed pretty far off, that's for sure," said the lefty-throwing Matz, who will make his Major League debut in Sunday's series finale against the Reds. "He only threw a couple innings. I hadn't thrown a pitch yet. We became real good friends through that time so it's pretty cool we're up here now."
Saturday, Matz arrived in Queens, the Mets' No. 1 prospect and latest in a firing squad of young, talented hurlers New York plans on protecting. New York assigned Matz No. 32 and the locker next to its rotation's other lefty, Jon Niese.
But it wasn't long before Matz gravitated down the clubhouse row to deGrom, his Spring Training fishing partner and old friend, now the reigning National League Rookie of the Year and an All-Star candidate.
"He's easy-going, but loves to compete. He keeps his head level. He doesn't let anything get to him," deGrom said of Matz.
A native of Stony Brook, N.Y., Matz grew up rooting for the Mets and plans to have a harem of friends and family at Citi Field to see him pitch. His most "vibrant" Mets memory, he said, was watching Endy Chavez's classic home run-robbing catch in the 2006 NLCS. He watched that from his house in Suffolk County, where he slept Friday night after getting the call from Triple-A Las Vegas.
In Vegas, Matz's success bucked a long-standing trend. Matz didn't just pitch well in the hitting-rich Pacific Coast League. He excelled to the tune of a 2.19 ERA in 14 starts. In 90 1/3 innings, Matz allowed just 69 hits and struck out 94 batters while walking 31. A case can be made that all of those numbers were skewed slightly -- in both directions.
With Matz's health in mind, the Mets made obvious attempts to curb his innings at Vegas, and will continue to do so here. When he did pitch, he did so in a hitter's haven of a league that recently tagged Noah Syndergaard with a 4.60 ERA.
"This kid so far put up the best numbers I've ever seen anyone put up pitching in that ballpark in Las Vegas," manager Terry Collins said. "He's very, very talented."
The Mets selected Matz in the second round of the 2009 MLB Draft out of Ward Melville High School in Suffolk County, which is located about 50 miles from Citi Field. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010, nine days before his 19th birthday, and didn't make his professional debut until 2012. After that he showed consistent excellence at every level, posting a 2.29 career ERA in 365 2/3 Minor League innings.
He will be only the second of the five prized Mets pitching prospects to debut at Citi Field. deGrom was the only other of the group that includes Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Syndergaard, to do so.