Mets starters have taken turns being the ace in recent years. This year, it could be Steven Matz’s turn.
In 2013, Matt Harvey was the man. The next two years it was Jacob deGrom, winning Rookie of the Year and following it with an even better season. Last year belonged to Noah Syndergaard. So obviously, Syndergaard goes into 2017 as the presumptive ace, and there is no reason he can’t keep the title.
But Matz could be breathing down his neck; that is, if he can stay healthy. Matz missed the last month and a half of 2016 and needed off-season surgery to remove bone spurs from his elbow. He also had a shoulder issue that did not require any procedure.
Thus far this spring, Matz is apparently pain-free. And it sounds like the injury could actually benefit him.
“I really feel like I learned a lot about myself as a pitcher,’’ Matz told the Daily News in January. “I learned that I don’t have to be going full-guns to be effective.
“There were times where if I stepped on the gas pedal at all, my elbow would kind of bark at me. But I found out I could pitch effectively, and I felt at times I was even more effective, toning it down and staying within myself.’’
Which could spell trouble for National League hitters. Steven Matz was pretty good when he was throwing full throttle — in 28 starts over his first two seasons, Matz is 13-8 with a 3.16 ERA and averaging almost a strikeout an inning. If he can become an even better pitcher, he can emerge as the best on the staff.
Ultimately, it does not matter who is deemed to be the “ace” of the Mets. If they all pitch up to their potential, there isn’t a team in the league that can stop the Mets from reaching the postseason and beyond.