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Matz unconcerned about his outing vs. Nats

@AnthonyDiComo
March 15, 2019

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The wind didn’t help. Blowing out from home plate all afternoon, a stiff breeze carried balls over the fence that, on another day, might have stayed within the bounds of First Data Field. Yet, Steven Matz knows wind alone wasn’t the reason for his worst

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The wind didn’t help. Blowing out from home plate all afternoon, a stiff breeze carried balls over the fence that, on another day, might have stayed within the bounds of First Data Field.

Yet, Steven Matz knows wind alone wasn’t the reason for his worst spring performance: four homers and eight runs in two innings during Friday's 11-3 loss to the Nationals

“When the ball’s up in the zone, especially on a day like today and they get the ball in the air, it’s going to be tough keeping the ball in the park,” Matz said. “Especially with a good lineup like that.”

The Nationals bused most of their regulars north for the trip to Port St. Lucie, including Adam Eaton, Yan Gomes, Anthony Rendon and Ryan Zimmerman, who all homered off Matz. The left-hander needed 35 pitches to escape the first inning and wound up doing extra work on a bullpen mound to reach his allotted pitch count.

Afterward, Matz was relatively unconcerned about both his outing and his 10.97 ERA through four Grapefruit League starts. Matz, who is slated to start the fourth game of the regular season, has two spring outings remaining: one in which he will stretch out to around 90 pitches, and another shorter tune-up before his regular-season debut.

In those games, Matz will work on releasing his pitches from a higher angle, allowing him to throw more consistently down in the zone.

“You want consistency out of a starting pitcher,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “I’m not concerned about it. … For a guy that went out there and made 30 starts last year, to think that Spring Training is who he is, is really tough.”

Double duty

Hoping to enhance top prospect Pete Alonso’s relationship with umpires, Callaway asked the rookie to carry the lineup card out before Friday’s game. The Mets have done that with other players in the past, teaching them what Callaway called “part of respecting the game.”

“It can’t hurt to learn everything that baseball entails,” Callaway said. “It’s not just going out there, playing defense and hitting. There’s a lot of cool things about baseball. And doing the lineup card the right way is pretty cool.”

Gregarious by nature, Alonso considered telling a joke to the umpiring crew but says he didn’t have time to do so once he arrived.

His joke of choice? “What’s brown, long and sticky? A stick," Alonso said.

All in the family

Among a group of Minor Leaguers the Mets borrowed for Friday’s Grapefruit League game was J.J. Franco, the son of former Mets captain John Franco. A 42nd-round Draft pick in 2010, Franco chose to attend Brown University rather than sign with the Mets. He became a 38th-round pick of the Braves four years later, before bouncing to the White Sox organization and, in '17, back to the Mets. He reached Double-A Binghamton for the first time last season.

Franco was able to spend time Friday afternoon in the clubhouse with his father, whom the Mets recently made a special assistant to general manager Brodie Van Wagenen. The elder Franco has been in camp all week.

Rotation order set

Callaway said it’s “pretty safe to assume” the Mets’ Opening Day rotation will go, in order: Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Matz and Jason Vargas. The Mets have an off-day after Opening Day, allowing them to bring back deGrom for the fifth game of the season if they desire. But they do not appear inclined to go that route.

Side work

Outfielder Carlos Gomez continued his work on the back fields Friday, stepping in for live batting practice against pitcher Kyle Dowdy. Gomez, who signed a Minor League deal nearly two weeks ago, is still waiting to clear up a visa issue before he can appear in any Grapefruit League games.

Up next

Bullpen candidates Tim Peterson, Daniel Zamora and Luis Avilan will jockey for position when the Mets travel to Jupiter on Saturday for a 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Marlins at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. Vargas is scheduled to start for the Mets opposite right-hander Sandy Alcantara.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.