PORT ST. LUCIE — Noah Syndergaard’s juice in his 2017 Grapefruit League debut rivaled the heat he brought afterward. In recent weeks, the Mets ace has identified his patriotic colors as blue and orange in explaining his refusal to pitch for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, but Friday issued his loudest statement yet.
Asked why he declined the invitation, Syndergaard said: “Because I’m a Met, and ain’t nobody made it to the Hall of Fame and [won] a World Series playing in the WBC. ” The Mets have come to expect such bravado from Syndergaard, and brazenly declared his intention to throw harder this season, even after averaging 98 mph on his heater last year to lead the major leagues in fastball velocity. But over two shutout innings against the Astros, he was also trying to master the slow stuff.
The bad news for opposing hitters this season might be Syndergaard’s affection for his changeup, a pitch he considers potentially his best for producing swings and misses. “The changeup has a real deceptive arm speed and it just looks like a fastball coming out, and everybody is going up there trying to get ready for my fastball,” Syndergaard said. Last year, Syndergaard dazzled with a slider that he regularly threw in the low 90s.
He arrived to the major leagues noted for his fastball and “hook from hell” curveball that impressed manager Terry Collins during his first spring training. But now Syndergaard’s heart is with the changeup — a pitch the organization has emphasized in recent years. It doesn’t hurt that a master of the changeup, Frank Viola, serves as the pitching coach at Las Vegas.
“I love throwing it,” Syndergaard said. “There is nothing better to see than you throw a real wicked changeup and you get a hitter to Tasmanian Devil in the batter’s box, so that is a good feeling. “That is really the key to it, the mental side of throwing the changeup.
You can ask Frank Viola the same thing. You have just got to trust it and throw it just like your fastball. ” Syndergaard was the easiest pitcher in the major leagues on which to steal bases last season, and the Astros tested him in the second inning, when Derek Fisher swiped second base.
But Syndergaard was told by pitching coach Dan Warthen his delivery time (1. 35 seconds to home plate) wasn’t the issue. Syndergaard, according to catcher Rene Rivera, shouldn’t become overly concerned with runners’ ability to steal against him.
“I always say, and I believe: If you concentrate on the guy at home plate, even if a guy steals second and third, if you get that guy at home plate, they don’t score,” Rivera said. “He’s working in spring training on being quick to home plate, but at the same time he just needs to concentrate on the batter. ” The Mets will continue their cavalcade of aces with Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz scheduled to pitch in successive days beginning Saturday.
“Right now I feel like I’m easing my way into it,” said Syndergaard, who has been named the team’s Opening Day starter for April 3 against the Braves. “And right now, who knows how my arm is going to feel in April? I just want it to continue to get stronger and see the velocity keep on ticking up there. ”.