Steven Matz gets anxious before starts. To help pass the time, he typically makes his way into the batting cage.
"It's more that I just like to do stuff," the Mets lefthander said Saturday on the eve of his second big-league start. "I'm kind of restless at times, so it's just kind of get in there and take some swings, keep your mind [occupied]."
Those practice swings already have paid off for Matz, who proved to be as productive at the plate as he was on the mound during his debut.
Against the Reds last Sunday, Matz put on a hitting exhibition, going 3-for-3. His four RBIs set a franchise record for any big-league debut.
He joined Dwight Gooden as the only Mets pitcher to collect three hits and knock in four runs in a single game.
And according to hitting coach Kevin Long, it was no fluke.
"I'm seeing how he competes and how his swing works," Long said. "From a mechanical standpoint, it's sound. There's not a whole lot of moving parts. He's short to the ball. He helped himself tremendously."
Even in spring training, Long said Matz distinguished himself with his work at the plate.
"His ability, he's got bat speed, it's crisp, he's able to get the barrel to the ball a lot," Long said. "He's able to use the field."
In that regard, Matz fits right in. During what's been a season-long showcase highlighting the Mets' elite young arms, those pitchers also have proved to be adept at handling the bat.
In the National League, few have helped their own cause more than the Mets' pitchers, who entered play Saturday night hitting .174. They trailed only the Reds, whose pitchers are hitting .193.
Mets manager Terry Collins is no stranger to pitching staffs that could help themselves at the plate even when they weren't on the mound. He managed the 1994 Astros, whose .200 average ranks 27th all-time among pitching staffs with at least 100 combined plate appearances.
That group included the likes of Doug Drabek, who hit .241 that season. It also featured Mike Hampton, who later established himself as one of the best-hitting pitchers of all time.
"Those guys could all handle the bat," Collins said. "And I'll tell you what, they were all athletic as hell."
The same can be said about the Mets' current staff.
Jacob deGrom is a former shortstop at Stetson and Noah Syndergaard already has a 430-foot home run on his resume.
Matt Harvey, a coach's son, hit .333 in 2012. Jonathon Niese has a career on-base percentage of .234, well above average among pitchers.
"If you have athleticism and you can do some other things, it just changes the game," Collins said. "These guys all field their position. Even though Syndergaard struck out twice last night, how about taking Clayton Kershaw to two 3-2 counts? He laid off breaking pitches. That's impressive."
And now the Mets have added Matz's bat.
When he wasn't pitching at Ward Melville, he was playing first base.
"I was a pretty decent hitter," he said. "I really liked playing every day."
In the minors, Matz hit .219 in 32 at-bats. But he offered a bit of a preview this season for Triple-A Las Vegas, hitting .304 with three RBIs.
"I know Matz is the kind of kid that works at that, works on the other side of the ball," Long said. "You see him in there taking swings between games getting ready for that. You don't see many pitchers do that on the day of the game."
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