- Associated Press - Saturday, June 27, 2015

NEW YORK (AP) - Steven Matz is set to make his major league debut about 50 miles from home with a huge cheering section in the Citi Field stands.

No pressure, kid.

The latest - and perhaps last - in a line of highly touted young pitchers to come through the New York Mets’ farm system lately, Matz will be called up Sunday to start against the Cincinnati Reds after a very impressive half-season with Triple-A Las Vegas.

“Not sure what’s going to go through my mind until it actually happens,” Matz said Saturday at a pregame news conference. “I’m really excited to be here. I’m going to kind of soak it in today, then going to go to work tomorrow and try to help them win some games.”

The 24-year-old lefty from Long Island was plucked by the Mets out of Ward Melville High School to some local fanfare in the second round of the 2009 draft. But his career got off to a slow start due to Tommy John surgery in May 2010, and Matz missed two full seasons before throwing his first professional pitch in 2012.

Once his arm was finally healthy, Matz took off like one of his 93-94 mph fastballs.

He went 2-0 for Class A Savannah in the 2013 postseason, striking out 17 in 12 2-3 scoreless innings to lead the Sand Gnats to the South Atlantic League championship. Then he threw 7 1-3 hitless innings for Double-A Binghamton in the clinching game of the 2014 Eastern League championship series.

“I really didn’t realize how close I was at this point nine months ago,” he said.

Matz began this season at Las Vegas and posted more stingy numbers in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. He went 7-4 with a 2.19 ERA and 94 strikeouts while allowing only 69 hits in 90 1-3 innings. He was leading the league in ERA, strikeouts and innings, and was tied for first in wins.

“He knows he’s got good stuff,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “I think he’s got great confidence right now - and he should. I mean, as I’ve said before, to do what he did in probably the best hitters’ league in all of the minor leagues, he should be able to have success here. But he’s going to have - like everybody else - he’s going to have a tough night, and we’ll help him get through those.”

Matz joins a solid Mets staff, and his arrival means the team will return to a six-man rotation to avoid overworking its young starters as their innings are managed.

In a sense, it also represents the culmination of New York’s commitment to rebuilding around a stable of prized pitching prospects. Matt Harvey was the first of those starters to reach the majors three years ago, followed by Zack Wheeler in 2013, Jacob deGrom and Rafael Montero last season and now Noah Syndergaard and Matz this year.

New York’s game Saturday against Cincinnati was suspended because of rain with the score tied 1-all after six innings. It will be completed Sunday afternoon, and Matz will take the mound 30 minutes later for the start of the originally scheduled game.

“I’m excited to see him pitch,” Collins said. “Again, I think it’s a great step forward for the organization to know that all these guys are up here now, and let’s teach them how to win games and watch them because they’re going to be really good.”

Matz has been watching from afar all along.

“I’m a big baseball fan, so I do pay attention to that stuff. I kind of watch guys make their debuts all over the whole league,” he said. “So it was really cool to watch those guys live up to their hype and transition it from the minor leagues to the major leagues. So I’m definitely going to pick their brain about it while I’m here and see if they can give me any tips about how they did it.”

Matz seemed a little unsure of himself in front of the microphone Saturday. But he credited minor league pitching coach Frank Viola with helping his rapid rise through the system, and recalled rehabbing with deGrom in Florida while both were recovering from Tommy John surgery early in their careers.

“Neither of us had barely thrown a pitch,” Matz said. “We became real good friends through that time, so it’s pretty cool that we’re both up here now.”

Matz, who will wear No. 32, said he slept at home Friday night when he got into town and then drove to the ballpark Saturday. He grew up rooting for the Mets and said his “most vibrant memory” as a young fan probably was Endy Chavez’s incredible catch above the left-field fence in Game 7 of the 2006 NL Championship Series.

Later, he estimated he could have close to 100 family members and friends in attendance Sunday.

“I’m happy it’s at home,” Matz said. “My parents are really excited. My family’s really excited. I’ve got a pretty big family, so there’s going to be a lot of people here, that’s for sure. It’s going to be fun.

“It really is a dream come true,” he said. “That’s really all I can say.”

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