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Noah Syndergaard's call to bigs a dream come true

Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard throws a warmup pitch

Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard throws a warmup pitch during the first inning of a spring training against the Tigers on Saturday March 8, 2014. Credit: Ernst Peters

PHILADELPHIA - Noah Syndergaard said he "blacked out." Though his gut had prepared him for the news, he still found it all to be incomprehensible as the words began streaming from the mouth of Triple-A manager Wally Backman.

Once Syndergaard heard that he was at long last headed to the major leagues, he didn't hear any of the other words that followed. Soon, he was on the phone with his mother.

"She said it was an awesome Mother's Day present," said Syndergaard, who will debut Tuesday against the Cubs at historic Wrigley Field. "And then we teared up a little bit."

Syndergaard, 22, had been dreaming of making that call for years. He thought it might happen last year. And when it didn't, the snub only punctuated the most trying year of his professional career.

But Saturday, when Syndergaard walked into a big-league clubhouse for the first time, the hurt was swept away by joy.

"That was awesome," said Syndergaard, who phoned his father next. "I've been dying to do that ever since I could pick up a baseball. I'm extremely blessed and thrilled to be at this point right now."

Manager Terry Collins will pair Syndergaard with a familiar batterymate, Kevin Plawecki, who until recently had been his teammate at Las Vegas. The timing of the promotion also allowed the pitcher to settle in before making his debut.

"There's a lot that he's got to get ready for," Collins said. "And I think the extra days are going to help."

On talent alone, Syndergaard's journey had all the makings of an easy ascent. Blessed with a blazing fastball, the Mets targeted the 6-6 former Blue Jays farmhand in the 2012 trade involving then reigning Cy Young Award winner R.A Dickey.

Instead, Syndergaard's climb has been marked by turbulence.

As he struggled at Las Vegas last year, Syndergaard made matters worse by allowing himself to become consumed with a call-up. He scoured Twitter daily, looking for hints of a promotion.

In spring training, he was chastised by veterans David Wright and Bobby Parnell for eating in the clubhouse during a scrimmage. And last month, Syndergaard drew the organization's ire when he sparred with a fan on Twitter.

On the field, however, Syndergaard showed that he had matured. Last year, the Pacific Coast League hitters dinged him for a 4.60 ERA in 26 starts, but the righthander has dominated this year, posting a 3-0 mark and a 1.82 ERA in his first five outings.

"Something clicked," he said.

Motivated by his failings of a year ago, Syndergaard worked to rely less on his fastball, which he can ramp up to the upper 90s. He praised Triple-A pitching coach Frank Viola and teammate Steven Matz for giving him an extra push.

That renewed focus is the reason he was caught off guard by his promotion. Though he's made an effort to stay off Twitter, he nonetheless heard chatter in the clubhouse about the Mets' Dillon Gee heading to the disabled list. The Mets' rotation suddenly had an opening.

Syndergaard didn't think much of it, though that changed when Viola summoned him into Backman's office.

Soon, there would be joy, relief, phone calls and a few tears.

"Last year, not getting that call was the best thing for me," Syndergaard said. "It kind of motivated me. Last year taught me how to struggle and how to handle adversity."


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