Noah Syndergaard lives up to the hype in throwing session
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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Around here, where the Mets have groomed their share of top-tier pitching prospects, this exercise has become a rite of passage.
The audience typically includes the top of the Mets' hierarchy, prominent members of the coaching staff and plenty of members of the media. Early each spring training, they gather around, eyes trained on the star prospect, in Monday's case Noah Syndergaard.
He did not disappoint.
Syndergaard's throwing session lasted only 40 pitches, but in that span, the 21-year-old righthander flashed the potential that has made him one of baseball's top prospects. Just as Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler had done before him, Syndergaard put on a show.
"This kid's throwing 97 mph today with a hook from hell," manager Terry Collins said. "Really impressive."
From the outside, Syndergaard appeared cool and comfortable, hardly aware of the eyeballs around him. Later in the afternoon, Collins put his arm around him to remind him that no pitchers make the team on the first day of camp. And certainly, those decisions aren't made after one side session.
"I kind of had the same mind-set," said Syndergaard, who dominated in the minors last season. "But as soon as I got on the mound, it was kind of hard to settle down. I tried to take it easy but I still kept going pretty hard at it."
The 6-6 righthander towered over the rest of his teammates. Owner Fred Wilpon stood along a fence to watch, joined by chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon and general manager Sandy Alderson. A bank of cameras popped up to record the action.
From behind home plate, catcher Anthony Recker watched Syndergaard make it look easy.
"What surprised me the best was his ability to make adjustments on the go," Recker said. "His first couple pitches were up in the zone. Then all of a sudden, it was whack, whack, whack, down in the zone. He just made one little adjustment."
Syndergaard surprised even himself. He got into a good enough groove to sprinkle in a few changeups, a pitch that he hopes to refine this season.
"Pretty much my first impression was 'wow.' He's got really good stuff -- great stuff," Recker said. "The ball jumps out of his hand, good movement on the two-seam, changeup. You don't expect a power-arm guy that young to have a changeup like that."
Syndergaard's poise again showed up later, this time as he faced another bank of cameras.
During Syndergaard's breakout year in 2013, his first after arriving from the Blue Jays in the R.A. Dickey trade, one team official described him as a "wallflower." It was an allusion to Syndergaard's natural shyness.
But on Monday, he seemed perfectly comfortable.
"For the most part, yeah, I'm getting there," said Syndergaard, who went 9-4 with a 3.06 ERA in Class A and Double-A last season. "The cameras are getting a little better. I remember my first interview when I got drafted. It was a camera interview at my house. It wasn't even live. It was recorded. And it was pretty bad."
He drew a few laughs when he joked that he prepared for the media scrutiny by having his parents ask practice questions back home in Mansfield, Texas.
For now, Syndergaard likely is ticketed for Triple-A Las Vegas, with a promotion perhaps as early as midseason. But until he's told that officially, he plans to make a push.
"Right now, I'm going to go into camp hoping to [make] the starting rotation," he said. "But if not, I know there's a bigger picture involved. When the organization thinks I'm ready is when I'll officially be ready. And I'll be looking forward to being in New York."
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