PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Noah Syndergaard got the call as he brushed his teeth in a hotel room in Reno, Nevada. It wasn't the one he thought he'd receive. Months later, the words linger.
Syndergaard, 22, thought he was ready for the scrutiny. He arrived at spring training last year as The Next Big Thing, a 6-6, 240-pound fireballer on the brink of a big-league breakthrough. But by the end of the season, there was only a clipped phone conversation that he called "kind of heartbreaking."
It was Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, calling to make official what had already been written on the wall. September had arrived without a promotion. "It was very disappointing," Syndergaard said.
The sum of his work painted a picture of a prospect in need of refinement. In 26 starts at Triple-A Las Vegas, Syndergaard went 9-7 with a 4.60 ERA. Against the most experienced hitters he had faced, he paid a heavy toll for relying too much on his fastball. An early- season arm injury didn't help.
Syndergaard knew he didn't deserve to be promoted. But it didn't take away any of the sting.
"From what I saw in spring training, I thought for sure we might see him last summer," manager Terry Collins said. "But again, as he admitted, there were some things he needed to work on."
Some of those things included the way he handled the crush of attention that came with being the prize of the R.A. Dickey trade and one of the top pitching prospects in baseball.
Last year, Syndergaard's arrival at camp generated a Harvey-esque wave of scrutiny. Otherwise mundane throwing sessions attracted the Mets' top execs. They came out to see a show. He put on a show.
"Last spring training, I was coming out really anxious," he said. "My first bullpen, I didn't realize how hard I was going."
His appearances in spring games jammed up the DVRs of anxious fans in New York. Collins called his curveball "the hook from hell." On the outside he seemed at ease with the attention. Beneath the surface he was overmatched.
"Coming over from the Blue Jays, I guess I wasn't ready for that," Syndergaard said. "There wasn't a lot of media attention, or nothing compared to this when I was with the Blue Jays. I felt like I was [ready], but I didn't really experience it until I got here."
The hype of last spring had been blinding. He was obsessed with earning a promotion.
"I started pressing there toward the middle of the season," he said. "I was trying to get called up, trying to make my own fate instead of just going out there and performing and letting the team dictate whenever I got called up. So, I'd get a little antsy."
The Mets had to put him on the 40-man roster, which Syndergaard knew might work in his favor. As did the Super 2 deadline in early June, which is like a starter's pistol, a sign for teams to promote their best prospects.
As it loomed, Syndergaard admitted he scoured Twitter for signs he was bound for New York. He carried this burden in his pocket until the day after the All-Star break, when he wiped the Twitter app from his cellphone. The noise had become too distracting.
"I had too much in my head last year," he said.
Syndergaard has since come to terms with his season. He credited Triple-A pitching coach Frank Viola for helping him with the mental game. His goal, once again, is to somehow crack a crowded rotation and make his big-league debut.
Motivation stems from the words he received from Alderson last September.
Said Syndergaard: "I don't ever want to hear that phone call again."