Score one for the adage that says you never can have enough starting pitching. The Mets had two starting pitchers in the All-Star Futures Game Sunday, one for each team. After Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero quickly were done, the only question was whether Citi Field made a greater impression on them than they made on it.
"Awesome. I could definitely get comfortable on that mound," said Syndergaard, a strapping, hard-throwing, boots-wearing Texan who pitches in Double-A and worked a smooth first inning for the U.S. team.
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"It was something incredible, a really beautiful thing," said Montero, the lithe Triple-A star who wears No. 45, just like Pedro Martinez, his hero and Dominican Republic countryman. Montero opened the game for the World squad.
Of course it was a setup to have each of them start, a natural because the All-Star Game weekend is at Citi Field this year. But it also put pressure on the two prospects who are expected to join Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler someday on a team that is building its foundation on pitching.
Just how quickly "someday" is coming is open for debate. Before the 4-2 U.S. victory, Montero, who was named the Mets' top minor-league pitcher in 2012, said through a translator, "I've been working very hard because I want to finish in the major leagues this year." He needed only nine pitches, most of them 94- and 95-mph fastballs, to retire the U.S. team in order.
Syndergaard, who recently was promoted from Class A and takes pride in the fact that, at 20, he is one of the youngest players on Binghamton's Double-A team, also was impressive. He threw 15 pitches, many of them 95- and 96-mph fastballs. He allowed a ground single, but the batter was caught stealing. The 6-6 righthander struck out Cubs prospect Arismendy Alcantara, who hit a home run against a different pitcher in his next at-bat.
"Just being out there was incredible. I just tried to keep focus on the catcher, but the cheering of the fans made it hard to," said Syndergaard, who never had been in New York City before this weekend. ("It kind of took my breath away," he said.) After a double-decker bus tour his first day, he went with his parents to Times Square and found himself musing: "This could potentially be my home. I'm looking forward to it."
So you practically could have missed both of them if you blinked. It was a tribute to their savvy in dealing with a big moment and their command that they got on and off their new favorite mound in a hurry.
"They distinguished themselves. They both threw well. We're excited about both of them," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said after chatting with Montero in the World clubhouse. "It was great. It was a glimpse into the future and not just for us, but for our fans. That's a real positive."
Both pitchers know the premium that the Mets are putting on young starters. They follow Harvey and Wheeler. Syndergaard, acquired in the R.A. Dickey deal, said: "I see it on Twitter a lot. Mets fans remind me when it's a Harvey day."
Outfielder Brandon Nimmo, the Mets' first-round pick in 2011, was impressed with both starters. He also said the Futures Game is a reminder of what all prospects are shooting for. He was assigned David Wright's locker for the day. "I am honored to be standing where he stands," Nimmo said.
All of the prospective future Mets were borderline awed by what they saw Sunday. "It's beautiful," Montero said, "and I would love to be here very soon."