NEW YORK -- From watching his Spring Training lunch disappear into a trash can to starting a critical World Series Game 3 with his team facing an 0-2 deficit, Mets fireballer Noah Syndergaard has come a long way in a calendar year.
When the rookie right-hander throws the first World Series pitch at Citi Field in Friday's Game 3 (7:30 p.m. ET air time on FOX, 8 p.m. game time), Syndergaard will be far from Port St. Lucie, Fla., where his most conspicuous contribution to big league camp was an ill-advised lunch during an intrasquad game March 3.
Syndergaard was not scheduled to pitch, but Mets captain David Wright suggested that he should be in the dugout, watching and learning. To drive the point home, another veteran, Bobby Parnell, picked up Syndergaard's full plate of food and dropped it into the garbage.
More than seven months have passed since then, and they've included a Major League debut in May, a 23rd birthday in August, 10 victories, including one in the National League Championship Series, and many more little learning experiences less awkward than the one in Spring Training.
"A ton of confidence [in Syndergaard]. A ton," Wright said following the Mets' 7-1 loss to the Royals in Game 2. "He's throwing the ball about as well as anybody possibly can. When you've got that type of stuff and the way he's been locating, he's going to be tough. So we've got a ton of confidence in him."
Among the sources of Wright's confidence:
• The Mets won 10 of Syndergaard's 13 starts at Citi Field this season, including Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs, a 5 2/3-inning, three-hit, one-run performance in a 4-1 Mets win.
• Yes, the Royals are arguably baseball's best fastball-hitting team, leading all teams with a .284 average against fastballs thrown at 95-plus mph, and ranking second with a .432 slugging percentage on those pitches. But Syndergaard possesses one of baseball's best fastballs. It averaged 98.1 mph during the regular season and produced a .185 batting average against, according to MLB Network's data.
Syndergaard registered the top velocity among Major League starting pitchers, and the runner-up was Syndergaard's opponent in Game 3, Kansas City's Yordano Ventura, who averaged 96 mph.
• Also according to MLB Network, at 23 years, 62 days old, Syndergaard will be the fifth-youngest pitcher in the Wild Card era (1995-present) to start a World Series game, behind Madison Bumgarner, Jaret Wright, Michael Wacha and Livan Hernandez. The others all won their World Series debuts.
"Obviously we didn't plan this to happen, to be down 0-2," Syndergaard said. "Coming back home is a big thing for us. Having the Mets faithful behind us, the greatest fans in baseball. Part of the reason our team has had so much success this year is being resilient and coming together as a team, [the ability to] overcome and win some ballgames."
Syndergaard will aim to fare better than the two Mets pitchers who started in Kansas City, Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom, who induced only 10 swings and misses from Royals batters. deGrom managed only three, and was undone by a four-run rally in the fifth inning in Game 2 that was fueled by a walk and five singles.
"From Game 1 with Harvey, from the first pitch, you know how aggressive they are," Syndergaard said. "But you don't really get a full grasp of how aggressive they can be unless you fully experience it. I feel like being able to watch the past two games has really helped me out and helped me devise a game plan to go out there and approach them."
"He's a very fast learner," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I've told you guys all season long, the most impressive thing I saw from Noah Syndergaard when he first got called to the Major Leagues -- and we've got deGrom, we've got Harvey, very similar guys -- was that he stood next to our pitching coach night after night, saying, 'Matt threw his slider in that count, is that a good pitch for me to throw, or should I do this or that?' Trying to learn how he's going to be successful.
"Because of that -- he's trying to study the game and learn how he can be better -- he has no fear. He believes he belongs here. And that speaks volumes. When you've got that kind of stuff and you're not afraid to throw it and you're not afraid to give up a hit because you think you can get the next guy out, you can get dangerous.
"Noah just got better and better and better as the season went along, with the confidence he had that he could be successful here. It all comes with his desire to get better."
The Mets need one more good Syndergaard start in front of the home fans.
"The amount of confidence that I've gained throughout this entire season and the journey has been an unbelievable experience for me," Syndergaard said.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.