Noah Syndergaard is ready to feel what it’s like to pitch in New York, under the media glare and on the big stage.
He had never been to the country’s biggest city until this weekend, but is hoping to call it home soon.
The 20-year-old right-hander from Mansfield Legacy High School continues to establish himself as one of the top pitching prospects in the game, rising in the New York Mets’ farm system since joining the organization last off-season.
He’ll get his first taste of a major league atmosphere at 1 p.m. Sunday as the expected starter for the United States in the Futures Game at Citi Field, home of the Mets.
“It’s awesome. I’m looking forward to it,” Syndergaard said. “It was a goal of mine to make the Futures Game, and it’s a really cool honor to be a part of it.”
How did Syndergaard find out? Did his minor-league manager or a member of the Mets’ front-office staff break the news to him? Wait, this is 2013, not 2003.
“I found out through Twitter,” Syndergaard said with a laugh. “I was just checking Twitter nonstop. I knew the rosters were going to come out around 3 p.m. that day and I was pretty anxious. I was on the field doing my stuff, and came back just in time to find out.”
The announcement capped a memorable week. Just a few days earlier, Syndergaard earned a promotion to Double A Binghamton and won his debut on June 23 against Erie, allowing two runs on five hits with a walk and seven strikeouts in six innings.
Syndergaard then allowed one run on four hits over five innings in his second Double A start, was charged with three unearned runs over seven innings in his third start and threw two scoreless innings Thursday in his last outing before the Futures Game.
It’s been a steady climb for Syndergaard, who has grown to 6-foot-7, 240 pounds since the Blue Jays took a lanky 6-4, 210-pound 17-year-old with the 38th pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft.
Syndergaard spent his first three professional seasons establishing himself as one of the Blue Jays top prospects, going 8-5 with a 2.60 ERA over 27 appearances (19 starts) at Class A Lansing last season.
But he learned the hard reality of baseball last winter — every prospect is on the block. And the Blue Jays packaged him in a deal to the Mets to land reigning National League Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.
Paul DePodesta, the Mets’ vice president of player development and scouting, had seen Syndergaard play at Legacy, and liked what he saw then just as he did last year.
“Not only is he young and physical, but he’s already big and strong with that much power,” DePodesta said. “Some young guys have to wait for their stuff to develop, but he doesn’t have an issue. He’s a guy who needs to harness what they have. He does have a chance to move quickly, but we’re not going to be reckless with how we move him through the system.
“We definitely see him as a [big-league] starter. He has such good command of his stuff and he holds his velocity really deep into games. He’s not going to be a high pitch-count guy because he has enough weapons.”
Being traded can be a confusing and difficult time for some prospects, but Syndergaard took it in stride. In fact, he almost reveled in it.
“Being traded for R.A. Dickey was awesome,” he said. “Not many people were traded for that caliber of player. Hopefully I can live up to the legacy he left.”
So far, so good for Syndergaard and the Mets.
He went 3-3 with a 3.11 ERA over his first 12 starts this season at High A St. Lucie and is now at Double A, facing players who are four to five years older than he is.
Syndergaard’s progress can be traced to his fastball command. He could touch 96 mph in high school, but location wasn’t too important.
As Syndergaard said, “I could throw it right down the middle and get away with it in high school. In professional baseball, you have to work both sides of the plate and I’ve been able to do that.”
The velocity has improved for Syndergaard, too, who routinely hits 95-96 mph and can touch 98. His curveball has become a plus-pitch, and he’s added a slider and will mix in a changeup occasionally to his repertoire.
“I’ve learned how to become a pitcher rather than a thrower,” Syndergaard said. “I’m very pleased with the progress I’ve made from where I first started to where I am. It’s night and day.”