The commute from Stony Brook to Flushing can be a long one. Since Steven Matz will be making the 50-mile drive more often, might he consider some real estate closer to the ballpark?
“Possibly,” he said with a smile Tuesday at Citi Field. “Not do that long drive every day.”
Matz, who graduated from Ward Melville High School, often commuted from his boyhood home in Stony Brook last season. But it’s the final drive home that he made from Citi Field, after the Mets lost the World Series to the Royals in five games, that left him reflecting on the past and yearning for the future.
“It definitely sank in,” Matz said after he dressed up as Santa Claus and handed out gifts to children at the Mets’ annual Christmas party. “Just the thought of playing in the World Series and reflecting on that whole time, I did that a little bit. But now I’m just looking forward here. I know for me, going to be even more hungry to win the World Series this year having tasted that postseason.”
Unlike last season, when Matz was called up to make his major-league debut in late June, he will be on the Opening Day roster. In what will be Matz’s highly anticipated follow-up campaign, Terry Collins believes the key for the 24-year-old lefty is simply to stay healthy. Matz was limited to six regular-season starts last year, in which he went 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA, because of a torn lat muscle and a late-season back injury.
“If you can get him out there, let’s just say 28 times, he’s going to win a lot of games,” Collins said. “I talked to a number of people that came up and have seen him in the minor leagues. There are those guys who think as he gets better, as he gets a little more under his belt, he’ll be as good, if not better, than anyone on this staff. Those are big statements.”
Big statements considering the staff includes Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard.
But Matz showed flashes last season, starting with his electric debut when he allowed two runs in 7 2⁄3 innings and went 3-for-3 with four RBIs in a win over the Reds. He started the Game 4 clincher in the National League Championship Series against the Cubs but was denied the win after being pulled with a lead and two outs in the fifth. He took the mound for the Mets, the team he grew up rooting for, in Game 4 of the World Series, allowing two runs in five innings in a no-decision.
“Whenever you do something and you can have confidence that you can be successful there, it helps you carry that into the next season,” Matz said. “So that’s what it did . . . You’re not going to pitch in a bigger game than the World Series.”
Matz said he has spent some time during the offseason in Nashville, Tennessee, where his girlfriend lives, and then went to Honduras, where he worked with impoverished children. He began training for the season after Thanksgiving.
“I got my feet wet last year, I’d say more than wet with the playoffs and stuff,” Matz said. “But I’m really excited to get this year started now. That first month off was nice. But I’m getting the itch again.”