A teenaged Steven Matz, recently transitioned from Mets fan to Mets prospect, was sitting at a table inside the team’s Port St. Lucie facility about a decade ago when a star from the major-league team joined him, made conversation and offered advice on where to work out in New York.
“I was kind of star-struck,” Matz said.
That was Matz's introduction to Carlos Beltran.
Beltran, now the Mets’ manager, called Matz this week, part of his effort to establish a rapport with his players, and Matz said Thursday night that he is excited to play for a manager as accomplished and intelligent as Beltran.
“Him being a leader and not too far removed from [being] a player, I feel like he understands how a good clubhouse can function,” said Matz, a Stony Brook native and former Ward Melville star. “His passion for the game and all the information that he gathered while he played — and he was obviously a well-respected player in the major leagues — [is clear], so I think it’s going to be great.”
Matz spoke at Frames Bowling Lounge in Manhattan, where he and his charity, Tru32, hosted his annual “Strikes with Steven” event, raising money for scholarships for children with a parent who was severely injured or killed in the line of duty.
The vision Beltran described to Matz during their phone conversation echoes many of the same themes Beltran touched on during his introductory news conference on Monday.
“His main message was what gave him an edge while he played was the collaboration of getting all that information together,” Matz said. “He feels that he can bring a lot of that to us and help us take our games to the next level.”
For Matz, that next level includes a greater degree of consistency, he said. He pitched in a career-high 32 games in 2019, finishing with a 4.21 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, and was prone to particularly bad meltdowns that inflated those numbers.
If he can find that consistency, it would be another boon to a rotation that seems to be in good shape for 2020. The only question mark revolves around free-agent righthander Zack Wheeler, who received a qualifying offer from the Mets.
General manager Brodie Van Wagenen said this week that the Mets have talked and will continue to talk with Wheeler about a new contract.
“I really hope they bring him back,” Matz said. “I hope he comes back. He’s a good friend and obviously a really good pitcher. That would be awesome if he could come back to the team.”