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Mets' Noah Syndergaard brings the heat in exhibition debut

New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard throws live

New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard throws live batting practice during spring training baseball practice Monday, Feb. 24, 2014, in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Noah Syndergaard's first on-camera interview came in 2010 when the Blue Jays selected him 38th overall in the draft. It ended poorly.

The crew arrived at his home in Texas, agreeing to speak with Syndergaard in his own living room. But even the familiar surroundings did little to quell his nerves. For days, his mother called the station, asking when the footage might see the air. It never did.

The Mets' prized prospect laughed about the incident shortly after passing his latest test of public scrutiny, a dominant two-inning stint on Monday in the Mets' 6-2 victory over the Braves.

The 21-year-old righthander had never pitched in a Grapefruit League game, nor had he faced so many established big-league hitters. But Syndergaard proved equal to the task, punctuating two shutout innings with fastballs that reached 98 mph.

"Normally, I'm pretty good at being able to tune outside influences off, but I definitely heard them," said Syndergaard, who could make out fans chanting his nickname in the stands. "I heard a lot of cheering. I heard a lot of Thors, too."

The line -- a reference to his Scandinavian heritage -- was delivered with the bright light of a camera in his face. It drew a laugh, yet another example of Syndergaard making everything look so effortless.

"So far, he's been great with it," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He understands what comes with the territory. You're out there, 21 years old, you've pitched in Double-A and people are going to your hometown in the wintertime to see you work out. He knows what it's about."

After Syndergaard impressed in his bullpen sessions and an intrasquad game last week, Collins said he was curious to see how he would respond in an actual game. He was not disappointed.

Several times Monday, Syndergaard fell behind in the count, losing any element of surprise. The Braves sat on fastballs. And they failed to catch up to them.

"I feel like I'm just pitching to my strengths out there, and one of them is being able to locate my fastball really well," Syndergaard said after his 30-pitch outing. "I'm going to give them the fastball and say right here, hit it."

Syndergaard set the tone with the first batter he faced, reaching back to strike out Jason Heyward with a 98-mph fastball. In the second, he needed only three pitches to strike out Evan Gattis, doing so with a 96-mph heater.

He inspired comparisons to future rotation mates Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler.

"Harvey's Harvey," Braves outfielder Justin Upton said. "But [Syndergaard] and Wheeler are definitely a close second."

The Braves got their only hit against Syndergaard when Ryan Doumit went the other way with a fastball. Still, he left the game without allowing any solid contact.

"I didn't know anything about the kid coming into today," Doumit said. "But I sure won't forget his name now."

Of course, there were flaws. Syndergaard struggled to command his curveball as well as he had during an intrasquad game Thursday. His changeup remains a work in progress.

Nevertheless, Syndergaard left another impression, and he made it look easy.

"Right now," Collins said, "he's on track to be special."

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