The vast reach of the Mets' young pitching staff has made its way to Bethpage Ballpark. Earlier this season, catcher Nelfi Zapata was crouched behind the plate in Las Vegas with the Mets' Triple-A team. Zapata was charged with catching both Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard before the two starters were sent to The Show.
Zapata, who was born in the Dominican Republic but grew up in Boston, met Matz on the youth baseball circuit when they were 18. They were drafted by the Mets in 2009, moved up the organizational ladder together and still keep in touch.
Frustrated by his lack of playing time -- he appeared in only 17 games for the Las Vegas 51s -- Zapata, 24, asked the Mets for his release and it was granted on Aug. 4. He signed with the Ducks on Aug. 13.
With the Ducks, Zapata hit .306 with six doubles and seven RBIs in his first 18 games (62 at-bats).
The Ducks are two games behind the Somerset Patriots in the Liberty Division second-half standings with 15 games to play. The Ducks, who have a 12-game lead over Lancaster in the wild-card race, likely will miss the playoffs only if the Bridgeport Bluefish, who are four games behind Somerset, win the division.
OUR Q&A WITH ZAPATA:
What will make Matz successful at the highest level?
"We played together in a youth baseball tournament called The Area Codes. Since then, he has improved a lot with his velocity. What got him to the big leagues is his consistency. He has a good fastball, a good changeup and a good curveball. He has the confidence to throw them for strikes. He commands his spots pretty well."
What about Syndergaard?
"He's a guy who was kept in the minors because his command wasn't there. But this year, he came out sharp. He had a sharp curveball, good fastball and changeup. He and Matz were guys that really made good adjustments and now they are where they are."
When you're catching guys like that, is it easy to see that they'll have success in the big leagues?
"You see it in the work ethic when they show up to the park. They're all about their routine . . . What makes them different from other pitchers is arm speed. Matz and Syndergaard throw fast. When you have that kind of velocity with a good fastball and a good curveball, you're going to move on in baseball. They're young talent and they have a bright future."
The Ducks don't have any more off days this season. Is that good from a momentum standpoint?
"The last month, you're always trying to kick it up a notch. We've been getting some good breaks. We're not doing too much. It's all about coming to the field and being prepared. We're used to it. It's the last month and we have to come out and finish strong. It's going to be tough, but we'll handle it. We're going to take it day by day, be ready and be prepared to come out and get a win."
Today: Southern Maryland at Ducks, 1:35 p.m.