PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Anthony Kay had pitched at First Data Field before. Seven times, in fact, after a promotion to advanced Class A St. Lucie last season. But it’s different when there are a bunch of fans in the stands — there was a sellout crowd of 7,134 Saturday — and it’s a big-league game, even if it’s just an early spring training exhibition.
So Kay had a bit more adrenaline facing the Braves in his first-ever Grapefruit League game than he previously had on the same mound.
“Obviously, it’s always fun to compete,” said Kay, who, like Mets starter Steven Matz, is a Ward Melville alumnus. “Now doing it in front of all the fans is extra cool.”
Kay tossed a scoreless seventh inning in the Mets’ 4-3 win over Atlanta, the exhibition opener for both teams. He escaped a jam after the first two batters reached via an error and a single.
With runners at the corners and nobody out, Kay picked off Izzy Wilson at first base and struck out Riley Unroe before getting Tyler Neslony to pop out to shortstop Andres Gimenez.
“You can’t let anything get too big,” Kay said. “I think after those first two runners got on, I was getting a little nervous. But then I picked a guy off and that settled me down and reset everything for me.”
Said Mickey Callaway: “A great pickoff move. Those kinds of things are big. Especially for a guy like Kay or [David] Peterson or those young players who are coming up to the big leagues, they have to be able to do small things. That’s really fun to see when those guys are honing in on those skills that are going to help them out at the big-league level.”
Callaway liked Kay’s velocity, too. “This guy’s got a sneaky fastball,” he said. “He’s running it up there to 94 from the left side — that was pretty impressive.”
Lowrie questionable for opener
Two days after an MRI on Jed Lowrie’s left knee, the Mets pecified his injury: a capsule strain.
The Mets don’t know how long he will be out, but Lowrie said Saturday that he is not optimistic about being ready for the start of the regular season.
“There’s no timetable right now,” said Lowrie, who noted that the MRI showed no major damage. “Obviously, I want to be out there with the guys on Opening Day. But we need to make sure this is right and it doesn’t linger.
“We’re just going to continue to treat and strengthen and progress accordingly. That’s the plan.”
Lowrie called the injury “beyond frustrating” and said he feels it when he works out, baseball or otherwise, and in day-to-day life.
“I can certainly tell it’s there,” he said.
Callaway opened his postgame news conference by strongly praising Robinson Cano for a third-inning RBI single. “That was amazing,” Callaway said. “He’s a leader and he’s stressing everything that we want to be stressed. They’re shifting him and he just goes ‘boop’ the other way and we scored.” . . . The Mets have told their outfielders to throw to the cutoff man every chance they get for the first half of spring training, Callaway said. That’s meant to get them in the habit of getting it in quickly, plus it protects their arms . . . Monday’s game against the Astros will have a brand-name pitching matchup: Justin Verlander (followed by top prospect Forest Whitley) against Noah Syndergaard.