The New York Mets hope their hard-throwing pitchers can dominate in the NL East this season.
First, they have a little work to do controlling the strike zone.
Noah Syndergaard walked five over 2 2/3 innings and Edwin Diaz gave out two free passes in his spring debut Saturday, shaky efforts for two of the biggest arms in the sport.
Syndergaard opened by walking Houston’s George Springer on four pitches and was charged with an unearned run when Springer scored on a throwing error by shortstop Danny Espinosa.
“Probably not his best outing ever,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said. “But when it’s something not typical of a player like that, kind of scattering the ball around, you don’t really worry about it.
“It’s kind of an anomaly in my mind. The stuff was good, the sliders he clicked were really good, he threw some good change-ups and we know the velocity is there and he was feeling good. He just didn’t have command of the ball like he usually does.”
Syndegaard averaged 97.4 mph on his fastball last season, second best in the majors among pitchers with at least 100 innings behind the Yankees’ Luis Severino. He said the timing of his delivery was off Saturday.
“My lower half and my upper half weren’t really quite synching up,” he said. “I just tried to guide the ball instead of drive it through the mitt.”
This was Syndergaard’s second outing of the spring, and he pitched well in the first one. He said he wasn’t totally comfortable for the debut, either, but thinks it might be beneficial to have to grind through some innings in early March.
“I always think it’s great to struggle, that separates the men from the boys. It’s how you react and make adjustments … when you realize you don’t have your best stuff,” said Syndergaard, who held the Astros hitless.
Diaz posted an MLB-high 57 saves last season for the Mariners and ranked 13th among qualified relievers with a 97.3 mph average fastball.
The Mets were anxious to watch their new closer make his blue-and-orange debut. Diaz walked a pair in a scoreless sixth inning, fanned one and didn’t allow a hit to the Astros in an 8-7 loss.
“He was a little rusty because he hasn’t pitched in a game until today for a while,” Callaway said. “He’ll get it all honed in and over the plate and be aggressive. His stuff is great.”
NOTES: OF Michael Conforto hit a solo homer off Justin Verlander in the first inning, his first shot of the spring. … Catcher Wilson Ramos hit a grand slam and went 3 for 3. … Callaway said Travis D’Arnaud will serve as the DH on Sunday and Monday. It will be his first action since Tommy John surgery in April. … INF Jed Lowrie held a clinic with a Colombian baseball team Saturday on Field 2. One of the players was Jose Mosquera, who lost his right leg in a car accident. A big supporter of Project Beisbol, Lowrie and wife Milessa covered the cost of a prosthetic leg and fitting procedure for Mosquera. “It speaks volumes of what the game means to so many,” said Lowrie of Mosquera’s commitment to baseball.