PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Five months ago, Noah Syndergaard told the Kansas City Royals that "if they have a problem with me throwing inside, then they can meet me at 60 feet, six inches away."
Whether fireworks erupt at Kauffman Stadium this weekend remains to be seen. All that's clear is that the Royals are about to have another crack at Syndergaard, the only Mets pitcher to beat them in the 2015 World Series. The Mets on Tuesday announced that Syndergaard will start their second game of the season April 5 in Kansas City, and that Jacob deGrom will pitch their home opener April 8 at Citi Field.
"We're real lucky," manager Terry Collins said. "We're very, very lucky and very fortunate to have that kind of pitching."
Syndergaard, 23, was the obvious choice for Game 2 given the uncertainty surrounding deGrom, whose wife is due with the couple's first child on April 5. The Mets long ago lined up Syndergaard to pitch Tuesday, though they remained coy regarding whether he would start or relieve.
It will indeed be the former, with Bartolo Colon and Steven Matz available out of the bullpen. Colon will also be available in relief of Opening Night starter Matt Harvey, whose clean bill of health -- he passed a blood clot through his bladder earlier this week -- allowed the Mets to announce their rotation after Tuesday's 1-0 loss to the Marlins.
Entering his first full season, Syndergaard is rapidly developing into one of the game's most exciting players. He hit triple digits on the radar gun at points this spring, with one final Grapefruit outing scheduled for Wednesday. Overall last season, Syndergaard finished 9-7 with a 3.24 ERA as a rookie, going 7-3 with a 2.97 ERA over his final 18 starts. He then posted a 3.32 mark in the postseason, striking out 26 batters over 19 innings.
Syndergaard's "meet me at 60 feet, six inches" comment came after he knocked down shortstop Alcides Escobar with the first pitch of World Series Game 2, prompting recent rumors in the scouting community that the Royals will retaliate. Those answers will come in time.
DeGrom, 27, made his first All-Star team last year en route to a 14-8 record and 2.54 ERA. Statistically, he was the Mets' best pitcher, though fear that his paternity leave might interfere with rotation plans made Harvey the obvious choice for Opening Day.
With just two games in the season's first five days, the Mets will not announce the rest of their rotation until after the Kansas City series, due to uncertainty over how they will use Matz and Colon out of the bullpen.