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Steven Matz ineffective but healthy in spring debut

Mets' Steven Matz throws in the first inning

Mets' Steven Matz throws in the first inning against the Houston Astros, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Credit: AP / Jeff Roberson

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Steven Matz wasn’t exactly sure what happened. After cruising through a scoreless first inning Tuesday, including a strikeout of the Astros’ Jake Marisnick, Matz looked lost in the second, when he didn’t record an out and allowed five runs in the Mets’ 8-2 loss at First Data Field.

After two singles and a pair of walks — one that forced in a run — Max Stassi punched an 0-and-2 curve into rightfield for a two-run single that ended Matz’s Grapefruit League debut.

“He’s looked good this spring,” Mickey Callaway said. “His mechanics just got away from him a tad that inning. He was probably a little tired.”

But as the Mets sort out a handful of camp injuries, there is one positive for Matz to take away from an otherwise gloomy outing. He’s not on their growing list of medical updates, which for him is a refreshing change.

“It’s frustrating,” Matz said. “But it’s February and this is the best I’ve felt in spring training in a long time — physically.”

Matz has worked with new pitching coach Dave Eiland to try to speed up his arm action rather than drag it through his delivery, a past mechanical flaw that may have led to his alarming number of injuries. His season ended last August following surgery to relocate the ulnar nerve in his left elbow — Jacob deGrom had the same procedure in 2016 — so Matz is pleased to be pitching pain-free for the first time in a while.

Now it’s just a matter of ironing out his issues from the stretch — Matz emphasized the two walks as the unraveling point — without really knowing where he went wrong.

“It’s hard to say,” Matz said. “At this point, I feel healthy and feel good, so I’ll build off that.”

Bruce is loose

Jay Bruce, sidelined the first four games by plantar fasciitis, was the DH and singled in his first at-bat, temporarily putting any foot worries to rest.

“Yeah, it went fine,” Bruce said. “It’s progress for sure. We’ll continue to chip away with it and continue to get ready. I’m not in any rush, though. It’s February still.”

Bruce is aiming for Thursday to play rightfield, under the assumption that his heel-maintenance program remains effective. “I think it’s going to be a housekeeping deal,” he said. “I have to be proactive.”

Tebow’s time

Tim Tebow, who sprained his left ankle on a sprinkler head last week, entered as a pinch hitter Tuesday but went hitless in two at-bats. Tebow didn’t swing at any of the five pitches when he struck out in the sixth. In the eighth, he flied out to left, narrowly missing with the barrel.

“If he squares that up, it’s a homer,” Callaway said. “There’s a lot of intrigue with him because of his power. The ballpark comes alive. The people start cheering, the phones come out.”

As for that incriminating sprinkler head, Callaway said the grounds crew made sure to fill in the potholes on that back field, hopefully preventing any more similar injuries.

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