PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - After shaking off a couple of weeks' rust, Mets lefthander Steven Matz was back in form by the third of his five innings in a simulated game yesterday morning.
The 24-year-old Ward Melville product threw 80 pitches, 50 for strikes, in an instructional league intrasquad scrimmage against a collection of Mets teammates ranging from major-league extras such as Eric Campbell to 18-year-old infielder Yeffry De Aza, who played in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League this season.
"I felt really good," Matz said afterward. "I was a little rusty the first couple innings but was talking with [minor-league pitching coordinator] Ron Romanick and [Class A-Advanced pitching coach] Phil Regan about some mechanical adjustments we made."
Matz, who twice was scratched from starts during the season's final week because of back trouble, will play catch Friday, and if he gets through the session without any issues, he will be added to the NLDS roster, which is due at 1 p.m. ET. He is likely to start Game 4 at Citi Field, if the series goes that far.
"In a perfect world, that would be the plan," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Again, we'll make adjustments as we go. We certainly hope that he's going to be part of the rotation."
If Matz is heathy, Collins said he will fly back to New York, where he will rejoin the club after the first two NLDS games are played in Los Angeles. The Mets want to avoid having Matz take a cross-country flight, especially in light of his back issues.
If the lefty is not available, Bartolo Colon is the Mets' first choice to start Game 4, with Jacob deGrom also a possibility to return on short rest.
Working on "innings" based on 15 to 20 pitches rather than outs, Matz allowed three hits and a walk while facing six batters in the first two innings.
His fastball sat at 93 to 95 mph and he touched 96 once against the first batter he faced. Vinny Siena, a second baseman out of Connecticut drafted by the Mets in the 14th round in June, laced that 96-mph heater into the left-centerfield gap for a triple.
Campbell, who never had faced Matz before other than in batting practice, described his pitching as "outstanding" and "nasty."
"His fastball had a lot of life to it, and his off-speed pitches later in the game he was throwing for strikes," Campbell said. "He's definitely good to go."
Anthony Recker, who caught Matz, said, "In the last three innings, he was awesome. Once that third inning came around, he found that rhythm. Everything was working; he had command of all four pitches."
Matz hasn't pitched in a game since Sept. 24. He has a 4-0 record and 2.27 ERA in six major-league starts.
With Marc Carig from Los Angeles
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