LOS ANGELES - In the last week, Steven Matz fulfilled a childhood dream by making his major-league debut, watched his ecstatic grandfather turn into an Internet sensation and found himself on the back page for walking into his favorite deli and ordering a sandwich.
But one week after his scintillating debut, the Ward Melville product has relished a return to normalcy.
When the rookie makes his second big-league start Sunday, not a single member of his family will be in the stands at Chavez Ravine. Instead, his outing will be little more than business as usual.
"It feels good," Matz said Sunday. "I had an extra day, or two extra days this week, so it feels good to just get into a routine and watch the other starting pitchers get to work. It feels just like baseball, the same game, bigger crowds, nicer stadiums."
Matz, 24, beat the Reds, 7-2, in his debut last Sunday. He surrendered two runs and five hits in 72/3 innings, striking out six and walking three.
No Mets rookie had pitched at least 72/3 innings in his debut since Brent Gaff in 1982.
Pitching coach Dan Warthen could find only tiny flaws in Matz's outing, such as his placement of two-seam fastballs against righthanded hitters. Warthen wants more of them to the outside corner.
"If that's the only thing I have a complaint about, then that's [minor]," Warthen said.
Manager Terry Collins said he's curious to see how Matz responds in his second career start without the adrenaline that accompanies a big-league debut. He'll face a stiff test against the Dodgers.
"It will be interesting to see how he handles it,'' Collins said. "Certainly, this is a great setting to pitch in. We're all excited to see him as he continues to grow and get better."
Despite the surge of attention that came with his debut, Matz has blended in, thanks in part to familiar faces in the Mets' clubhouse. Many were teammates in the minors.
Within those confines, Matz has been just another rookie. For instance, he was awarded a championship belt after his debut, a custom the team started this year to acknowledge the star of the game. But Matz forgot to bring the belt on the team's West Coast road trip. His punishment awaited him after Friday's game.
In his locker, he found a jumble of belts. He was charged with hanging them in every locker.
"It was really helpful," Matz said of the familiarity in the clubhouse. "It made it really easy in there, so it's been really good."