PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Under the Florida sunshine, when Steven Matz is effortlessly pouring in 94-mph fastballs, it’s easy to imagine what the Long Island lefthander’s season could look like if he makes all of his starts.
Injuries, though, have held Matz back in both of his major-league seasons. His final start of 2016 came on Aug. 14 because of shoulder and elbow issues. He had offseason surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow.
On Saturday, Matz made his second start of spring training. In three impressive innings against the Nationals, the 25-year-old was charged with one unearned run in the Mets’ 6-0 loss. He gave up three hits, walked none and struck out two.
The First Data Field radar gun that was mysteriously off for Matt Harvey’s start on Friday was back on for Matz’s outing. It showed mid-90s heat as Matz worked against a Nationals lineup that was devoid of regulars.
More important than the results was how Matz felt. Spoiler alert: He felt good. He hopes to feel just as good for about 32 regular-season starts and beyond.
“It’s tough,” he said. “I want to be out there. That’s why I’m here. You want to go out there and pitch. So when you have setbacks or when you get injured, it’s tough, but it’s part of the game. You’ve just got to keep working to get back out there. Right now, I’m just happy where I’m at physically.”
The most innings Matz has ever thrown in a season is 155 2/3 in 2015. That total is combined from the minors and majors, including postseason.
Last year, Matz threw 132 1⁄3 innings in 22 starts and went 9-8 with a 3.40 ERA. Add about 10 starts to that and get closer to 200 innings and he’ll be happy. And so will Mets manager Terry Collins.
“It’s huge,” Collins said. “It’s very important because I don’t think he’s done it. He hasn’t done it in the big leagues, I know that. That’s the challenge.”
Said Matz: “Every time they call my name I want to take the ball. That’s the goal for this year, is just to look for the next start and make my start. That’s what I want to do.”
Matz said he has “tinkered” with some of his workouts and his throwing program to help him stay healthier this season.
“You just try to learn what’s the best formula to keep you on the field,” he said. “I’m still learning every day how my body’s responding to stuff.”
With the exception of a flu bug that has slowed Noah Syndergaard, everything is coming up roses for the Mets’ top four starters. Matz, Harvey and Jacob deGrom have all made two starts. Harvey is dealing with a stiff neck, but he said that was “90 percent” improved from his first start to the second.
“They’re doing fine,” Collins said. “They’re coming along just like we want. With them right in a row right now, I kind of like where we stand.”