For three years in the Toronto organization, Noah Syndergaard was pitching with kid gloves on.
The Blue Jays, like an increasing number of teams, are careful with their young starting pitchers. Syndergaard was no exception. Toronto managed his pitch counts carefully, deploying him in a piggybacking system along with heralded teammates Aaron Sanchez and Justin Nicolino.
The Jays traded Syndergaard to the New York Mets in the offseason as part of a deal for R.A. Dickey. Now pitching for St. Lucie in the Class A Advanced Florida State League, Syndergaard is being given more freedom to pitch deeper into games.
The 20-year-old took advantage Tuesday, allowing one unearned run while matching a career high with six innings in St. Lucie's 3-2 loss to Charlotte.
Syndergaard scattered three hits and two walks while striking out four. The outing required 83 pitches, and the Stone Crabs' got their lone run off him on a passed ball after the right-hander allowed singles to Kyeong Kang and Hector Guevara to lead off the inning.
The Mets' No. 3 prospect retired the side in order in the first, second, fourth and sixth innings. The hurler induced eight groundouts to four flyball outs and dropped his ERA to 4.50.
Syndergaard, ranked 29th on MLB.com's Top 100, began the year strong, posting four shutout innings in his first start and allowing two earned runs over five innings in his second.
His third outing was rocky. The right-hander allowed seven earned runs on eight hits in just three innings in an 11-8 loss to Fort Myers. The damage included a two-run homer by top Twins prospect Miguel Sano, the first home run he'd allowed since June 2, 2012.
The only other time Syndergaard threw six innings was on July 8, 2012. The hurler averaged just over 3 2/3 innings per outing last season, and he has bested that mark in three of his four starts this year.
Syndergaard exited with the game tied, 1-1. Kang's solo homer in the bottom of the seventh snapped the tie, and an RBI single by rehabbing Luke Scott added an insurance run in the eighth.
Dustin Lawley hit a solo homer for St. Lucie in the ninth.