Noah Syndergaard felt the spotlight on him as a first-round Draft pick, but he's taking on a new identity this season.
Mets fans will keep their eye on Syndergaard this season after their rebuilding franchise dealt Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey to Toronto for a package that included the 19-year-old right-hander.
Dickey, a 38-year-old knuckleballer, went 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA for the Mets last season, while Syndergaard spent the entire year with Class A Lansing in the obscurity of the Midwest League, finishing 8-5 with a 2.60 ERA in 27 starts. Now, though, he's "the guy traded for Dickey" and knows the expectations surrounding his right arm.
"Hopefully," he said, "I can live up to the potential."
We took a few minutes with the Texas native to talk Spring Training, family and how to tune out your mom in the stands:
MiLB.com: So your first Spring Training with the Mets is just about over -- how different was it as compared to your previous two with the Blue Jays?
Noah Syndergaard: It's not that much different, some minor things here and there -- the instructors and goals -- but it's still the same.
MiLB.com: How shocked were you when you heard you'd been traded -- in a deal for the reigning Cy Young Award winner, no less?
Syndergaard: I was pretty shocked. I went to bed the previous night before the rumors started and I thought it would just be Anthony Gose and [Travis] d'Arnaud. And the next afternoon I saw my name was in the mix. I called my agent, he said it's probably just a rumor. About 30 minutes later, he texted me and said, "It might go down." A couple days after that, I got the call that they'd traded me. It was pretty exciting to be traded for a Cy Young winner.
MiLB.com: I read you drove to Spring Training from Dallas with your parents. Did you guys take turns driving? I assume you're used to long road trips by now.
Syndergaard: My dad drove a good portion -- we switched often. I drove a little -- maybe five hours -- but I was mostly in the back seat sleeping the whole way.
MiLB.com: What was it like having your parents with you at Spring Training?
Syndergaard: It was awesome. I wish they could see me throw in a game -- I had a minor injury and stopped for a while, but it was nice to go into a new place that you're not too familiar with and have your parents with you.
MiLB.com: What kind of injury did you have?
Syndergaard: A little pull in my lat. It's OK now -- I actually threw threw three innings today [March 27].
MiLB.com: You said you were a little nervous after your first bullpen session with the Mets in St. Lucie, which is expected. How much more comfortable are you now, having been in camp for more than a month?
Syndergaard: I've thrown a few sides. I was nervous going into today but remained calm, was able to go out there, and I'm getting better each outing. I felt better today. I was able to locate all my pitches pretty well for the most part. I'm ready for the season.
MiLB.com: Your mom talked about keeping all your baseball jerseys in a chest back home. Have you already given her a Mets uniform to pack away?
Syndergaard: I have not given her a Mets uniform yet. They won the auction for my road uniform from Lansing last season and got my jersey form my host parents in Bluefield a couple years ago.
MiLB.com: You told us a year ago that you modeled yourself after Nolan Ryan growing up. A little before your time, but was he your favorite player? Have you ever met him?
Syndergaard: Never met him. I don't know who my favorite player is. I always followed the Rangers, and Josh Beckett would be one of them. But Ryan, I never saw him pitch.
MiLB.com: Where are your off-speed pitches at coming into Opening Day? Are you confident with your curveball and slider after working on things this Spring?
Syndergaard: Yeah, definitely, my curveball was really good today. It's felt good in my bullpens -- it's a lot better than it was last year in the beginning of the season -- so it's a plus pitch for me right now, a strikeout pitch.
MiLB.com: What's your mind-set on the mound? Can you hear the fans and the dugout and the hot dog vendors, or is that level of focus something you think all pitchers have to work on?
Syndergaard: I'm able to tune things out pretty well. When I was in school, my mom would ask me if I could hear yelling and I said, "I've never heard you once from the stands." The other day, when I was throwing my live BP, I didn't notice anything but the catcher.
MiLB.com: Seems like you and Brandon Nimmo get along well on Twitter. Have you guys become friends this spring as two of the team's best prospects?
Syndergaard: Yeah, Nimmo is a great guy. He's good to be around. He has a good head on his shoulders -- he's one of my good friends down here. I would say Nimmo and Michael Fulmer, we spend a lot of time together.
MiLB.com: You've been all over the place in 2 1/2 Minor League seasons, from Florida to Vancouver to the midwest last year. What's the experience been like in general?
Syndergaard: It's awesome. It's memories I'll always be able to share with my kids, and the friends I've made are unbelievable, lifelong friends. I was a groomsman for one of my best friends, a guy I met in pro ball my first year. I handle the travel well, and Lansing was nice -- some nice ballparks up there [in the Midwest League]. I'm looking forward to the rest of my career.
MiLB.com: Do you feel like you've had any pressure being a first-round pick? Or now after being traded for R.A. Dickey?
Syndergaard: Kinda, not much as a first-round pick, but definitely being traded for a Cy Young winner. Hopefully, I can live up to the potential.
MiLB.com: When do you see yourself getting to New York? I know guys like to deflect the timetables back to the player development folks, but do you feel like you're a year or so away?
Syndergaard: I would say I'm probably two years away, I'm guessing. But it's whatever the organization decides. I've never been to New York.
MiLB.com: OK, a few quick questions. Favorite athlete?
Syndergaard: Blake Griffin.
MiLB.com: Favorite movie?
Syndergaard: Tough one. Step Brothers or Anchorman.
MiLB.com: Funniest teammate you've had in the Minors?
Syndergaard: Jack Murphy.
MiLB.com: Who's your pick to win the NCAA Tournament?
Syndergaard: I didn't even make a bracket, I don't really care. I'll go with Duke.
MiLB.com: You Tweeted about watching The Walking Dead and its "flesh-eating awesomeness." Are you caught up this season, and what's your prediction for the finale?
Syndergaard: I think the last episode I saw was when Merle and his brother [Daryl] left on their own. I'm not really caught up, I'm waiting for it to come out on Netflix.