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Garcia, Syndergaard have stellar outings

By GUY CURTRIGHT

Associated Press

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) Freddy Garcia ran his streak of perfect innings to five in his bid to earn a spot in the Braves' rotation, Mets' top prospect Noah Syndergaard pitched two scoreless innings in his Grapefruit League debut and New York beat Atlanta 6-2 Monday.

The 21-year-old Syndergaard struck out leadoff hitter Jason Heyward on a 98 mph fastball, then Evan Gattis on three fastballs to start the second. The right-hander allowed just one hit over two scoreless innings.

"That's a lot of weight coming off my shoulders right there," Syndergaard said of striking out Heyward. "I feel like I'm pitching to my strengths, and one of them is being able to locate my fastball really well. It was very encouraging, because I know that lineup is a real big threat. It's got a lot of thunder."

In contrast, Garcia, 37, used an assortment of mostly slow stuff to retire nine straight Mets, three on strikeouts, after retiring all six Detroit batters he faced while fanning two in the spring opener.

Syndergaard, acquired from Toronto as part of the trade for R.A. Dickey last year, is projected to start the season with Triple-A Las Vegas, but he has already shown his potential.

"He's got all the traits of the good ones," said Mets manager Terry Collins, who has been as impressed with Syndergaard's composure as with his stuff. "He's going to be a really, really good pitcher. . He's on track to be special."

Ryan Doumit got the hit off Syndergaard, lining a fastball to the opposite field with one out in the second inning to cap an eight-pitch at-bat, but the veteran switch-hitter was still impressed.

"You see a lot of guys that throw 96 and 97 mph during the season, that they're not throwing 96 or 97 right now," Doumit said. "I didn't know anything about the kid coming into today, but I sure won't forget his name now."

"He was throwing gasoline," Garcia said. "Pretty darn good."

Braves: Garcia had a 1.65 ERA in six games for the Braves last September after struggling earlier in the year with Baltimore. He pitched six solid innings in the division series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

But no team offered the right-hander a major league contract this winter and he signed a minor league deal with the Braves featuring a March 25 out-clause if he isn't assured of a spot in Atlanta.

"I'm just trying to get guys out and make the team," said Garcia, who has won 156 games in 15 major league seasons. "I don't want to go back to the minors. It's not fun when you are used to the majors."

Mets: Syndergaard was 9-4 with a 3.06 ERA in his first season in the Mets organization while splitting time in Class A and Double-A. The right-hander had 133 strikeouts to 28 walks in 117 2-3 innings.

Mets first baseman Ike Davis, who was scheduled to be the designated hitter, didn't make the trip from Port St. Lucie because of calf tightness, but Collins said he is expected to play Tuesday against Houston. ... Shortstop Ruben Tejada is also scheduled to return to the lineup after missing the past two games with a tight left hamstring. ... Lucas Duda, competing with Davis for a starting spot, left Monday's game after five innings with leg stiffness. ... Left-hander Jon Niese is slated to make his spring debut for the Mets in a B game Thursday against the Astros. The projected starter for opening day was scratched from what was to be his first outing because of shoulder soreness, but the MRI revealed no structural issues. Niese was limited to 24 games last season because of a partial rotator tear.

Braves right fielder Jason Heyward, a Gold Glove winner in 2012, threw out Jack Lutz at the plate to preserve a scoreless fifth inning for closer Craig Kimbrel.

Kimbrel, who had 50 save last year to lead the majors, followed Lutz's leadoff single by hitting a batter and then committing an error to load the bases.

The right-hander received a four-year, $42 million contract extension that also includes a $13 million option for 2018. He allowed one hit and struck out two in a scoreless inning on Thursday against Detroit.

Updated March 3, 2014

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