Noah Syndergaard has bigger plans than being in the Futures Game

United States' pitcher Noah Syndergaard throws a pitch

United States' pitcher Noah Syndergaard throws a pitch during the ninth inning of the All-Star Futures game against the World Team on Sunday, July 13, 2014, in Minneapolis. (Credit: AP / Jeff Roberson)

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MINNEAPOLIS - No offense, but after two trips, including Sunday's appearance at Target Field, Noah Syndergaard is through with the Futures Game. The Mets' top pitching prospect has much bigger things in mind for 2015.

"Hopefully, next year I'll be in the All-Star Game,'' Syndergaard said as he unpacked in the Twins' clubhouse before playing for the U.S. team. "This isn't bad, but it's not where I want to be.''

If not for two relatively minor injuries -- an elbow scare and a sprain of his left (non-throwing) shoulder -- maybe Syndergaard would have been at Citi Field, relishing the Mets' 8-2 homestand after Sunday's win. Instead, he took on the role of U.S. closer and earned the save with a scoreless ninth inning in a 3-2 win over the World team.

There's some symmetry here. In 2011, Matt Harvey picked up the save for the U.S. A year later, he was called up by the Mets.

"I'm still 21 years old. I still got time,'' Syndergaard said. "There's really no rush. I'm just hoping I can get up there pretty quickly, contribute to some wins and hopefully a playoff push.''

Hear that, Mets? Syndergaard is thinking postseason. And the way he's pitching now, maybe he's capable of helping the Mets down the stretch.

In his last start, July 9 in Albuquerque, the 6-6 righthander allowed a run and struck out eight without a walk in seven innings for Triple-A Las Vegas. But he has a 5.31 ERA, so he knows there's some catching up to do.

"Now I realize I'm going against professional hitters -- guys that have been in the big leagues and want to get back -- so they're going up there with a little better approach on how to attack me,'' he said. "I feel like my biggest key right now is just becoming unpredictable.

"I get a little too fastball-oriented and forget my off-speed pitches. Sooner or later, if a hitter's going to see six fastballs in a row, I think they're going to time it up every once in a while.''

(Syndergaard, whose fastball ranged from 95 to 97 mph in the Futures Game, whiffed Steven Moya with an 85-mph changeup.)

Kevin Plawecki, recently promoted to Vegas and the Mets' other prospect at the Futures Game, agrees to a certain extent. But after catching Syndergaard in that July 9 start, Plawecki is a huge fan of that fastball, which can reach triple digits.

"You got a guy throwing 98 to 100, I don't know why you wouldn't want to throw it more,'' Plawecki said. "We utilized his fastball a whole lot more in his last start. I think that showed him where he's going to make his bread-and-butter.''

It's all part of the process, another cliff face to scale on the learning curve, and Syndergaard is doing his best to be patient during the climb. Judging by the preseason expectations, he's already behind schedule.

Syndergaard, like Zack Wheeler a year ago, figured to be a post-Super 2 deadline call-up, on the fast track at age 21. He did make it to New York by the end of May, but that was for an MRI to make sure his flexor-pronator strain was nothing more serious.

While that test showed no structural damage, Syndergaard's return to the Vegas rotation on June 5 lasted all of two outs. In the first inning, he was wiped out covering home plate on a wild pitch and sprained his shoulder. Syndergaard says he doesn't remember much -- "I kind of blacked out'' -- but he'll be a bit more careful next time.

Just another lesson. Syndergaard now can put a check next to the boxes for "bouncing back from injury'' and "tuning out distractions.'' Avoiding Twitter, or at least making an effort to, helps him keep his mind free of trade chatter or call-up rumors.

"I just try to pay attention to what's happening now,'' Syndergaard said. "I think that's what messed me up a little bit, I guess, was the expectations I had. The whole Super-2 thing. People expected me to be up there by then. But they're not going to move me up regardless of the Super-2 if I have a 6.00 ERA and I'm getting hit around all over the place.''

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