JUPITER, Fla. - At the end of spring training, when the Mets move north to begin the regular season, lefthander Steven Matz likely will stay put.
The Ward Melville product is slated to begin his season at advanced Class A Port St. Lucie, still a long way from the major leagues. Even scouts who rave about Matz say he needs refinement in the minors, a product of time missed because of complications from elbow surgery.
Nevertheless, the 22-year-old has made the most of his chance to impress team decision-makers, who seem increasingly bullish on Matz's chances of ultimately reaching the majors.
Matz made his Grapefruit League debut in Sunday's 7-1 loss to the Cardinals, allowing one hit and striking out two in one inning.
"I love the kid's arm," pitching coach Dan Warthen said. "He's getting the ball down better each and every time. He threw a couple of great curveballs and a nice changeup today. It's a very positive outing for Steven."
Matz has generated some buzz at big-league camp, his first since the Mets chose him in the second round of the 2009 draft.
He did not make his pro debut until 2012, thanks to a bumpy rehab from Tommy John surgery in 2010. But he put himself back on the radar with a strong 2013 campaign in low-A Savannah, going 5-6 with a 2.62 ERA in his first full season.
"He's grown up," said Terry Collins, who recalls seeing Matz shortly after he was drafted. "He's a man now. He's got a great arm, plus stuff."
Perhaps just as important, Matz said he feels comfortable in his surroundings, mostly because of the 106 1/3 innings he logged with Savannah last season. He hopes to reach 130 innings this year.
Meanwhile, the Mets seem open to promoting Matz aggressively if he continues his progress.
"He's going to move [up] fast," Collins said. "He's got that kind of stuff."
That stuff has been on full display. Matz opened eyes with what Collins called a "lights-out" effort in Thursday's intrasquad game. On Sunday, scouts clocked Matz's fastball at 95 to 97 mph with plenty of movement.
"I'm just happy to be up here with the guys," Matz said. "Even though I only played in low-A last year, getting to face some of these big-league hitters is a pretty cool experience. Just to know I can go out there and compete with big-league guys is awesome."
Scouts consider Matz's fastball to be ahead of his other pitches, a changeup that seems to come naturally and a curveball that lacks consistency. But Warthen said Matz has shown progress with his secondary offerings, which was evident against the Cardinals.
Matz fell behind 3-and-0 against his first batter, All-Star catcher Yadier Molina. But the lefthander bounced back to record a strikeout.
After Matt Adams lined a one-out single to center, Matz got Mark Ellis to fly out before striking out Tony Cruz to finish off a shutout inning.
"It's going really good," Matz said. "I'm feeling really good and that's the main thing. My arm strength's feeling good and everything else is feeling good so far."