Steven Matz didn’t have a great start to his spring-training debut on Sunday against the St. Louis Cardinals.
On just his second pitch of the afternoon, the Mets’ southpaw was taken deep by Harrison Bader well over the left-center field wall.
It was the lowlight of his one-inning outing, as Matz took care of the next three batters with ease, including a strikeout.
Matz’s handling of the first inning will be something that Mets management will keep a close eye on throughout the spring.
The 28-year-old struggled mightily at the start of games last season, allowing 20 earned runs in 29 first innings for a 6.71 ERA with 10 home runs allowed.
He posted a 3.78 ERA with 17 home runs in all other innings combined.
It was a noticeable step back from a 2018 season that suggested Matz was moving in the right direction after three injury-plagued seasons.
After posting a 3.97 ERA in 30 starts, Matz’s ERA swelled to 4.21 in a career-high 160.1 innings of work.
It seems that the Mets might not be waiting much longer to see if Matz develops into that consistent bottom-of-the-rotation arm as his job security as a starter is very much in jeopardy.
General manager Brodie Van Wagenen brought in two other potential No. 5 starters in Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha to turn up the competition.
Porcello is four years removed from winning the American League Cy Young with the Boston Red Sox while Wacha showed flashes of promise after coming up as one of the Cardinals’ top pitching prospects. Both are coming off some of their worst professional seasons in the majors, however.