Steven Matz’s amazing Mets debut was the conclusion of a long journey

By Danny Abriano

Roughly 15 months ago, I wrote the following after Steven Matz started to tear up the High-A Florida State League:

"With Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard on the cusp of their big league debuts,Zack Wheeler and Jenrry Mejia dealing in the majors, and Matt Harvey on the comeback trail, Matz may be a bit overshadowed at the moment. However, Matz’s performance and potential is making him impossible to overlook."

I was far from alone in my praise and expectations for Matz, but watching him put it all together at Citi Field on Sunday was extra special.

Matz, who was drafted out of Ward Melville High School on Long Island in 2009, had close to three seasons derailed by injury before he even made his first professional pitch.

After finally getting past the Tommy John surgery and various maladies that held him up, Matz dominated every level of the minors on his way to Citi Field. He wasn’t as heralded as Harvey or Wheeler or Syndergaard, but he showed Sunday why so many people believe he’ll be force in the Mets’ rotation along with the aforementioned three pitchers and Jacob deGrom for the foreseeable future.

No, Matz doesn’t have the overpowering fastball that Syndergaard has, the huge personality and four plus pitches of Harvey, or the precision of deGrom. But he’s a left-hander with a fastball in the mid-90s who has the potential for two plus secondary pitches. As I’ve noted many times in the past, those types of pitchers are incredibly rare, and the Mets have a gem with Matz.

On Sunday, Matz started off his day by serving up a home run to Brandon Phillips. Once that was behind him — save for another solo homer, this time by Todd Frazier — he was dominant.

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Working quickly and with purpose, Matz featured a fastball that sat between 94 and 96 MPH and mixed in his changeup and curveball liberally while holding the Reds to five hits in 7.2 innings while walking three and striking out six.

When Matz needed double play grounders, he induced them. When he needed a little extra on his fastball to escape a jam in the seventh, he reached back and got it. And at the plate, Matz was a menace, going 3-for-3 with four RBI. Unreal.

What makes Matz different from the four pitchers who’ve come before him is that he’s a hometown kid who grew up rooting for the Mets. That type of thing can be a bit overblown, but it’s so rare that it’s something that should be cherished by this fan base. One of our own is on our side, and it’s a great thing to see. And judging by the reaction of the crowd on Sunday, Mets fans are ready to embrace Matz.

Ever since Jacob deGrom came out of nowhere to emerge as a front line starter last season, Mets fans have been waiting for the last two crown jewel starting pitchers — Syndergaard and Matz — to join him.

Zack Wheeler is out for the season while recovering from Tommy John surgery and likely won’t return until June or July of 2016, but 80 percent of the dream rotation is now in place.

If all goes well, about a year from now, there will be no more six-man rotation. No offense to them, but there will be no more Jon Niese or Bartolo Colon, either. There will just be Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz. The future will finally be here in full.