LAKELAND, Fla. -- As a youngster, Noah Syndergaard loved to watch Major League stars Torii Hunter and Ian Kinsler on TV. He saw both in person on Saturday, standing at home plate, ready to bat against him.
"It was kind of cool," said Syndergaard, who worked the first three innings of the Mets' 3-2 victory, allowing the Tigers two runs on two hits, both singles. "Those were guys I grew up watching."
"Tell him, 'Don't ever say that again,'" joked Hunter when told of Syndergaard's comments.
"I was awesome when he was three years old. Come on."
Then, Hunter laughed.
"He has a bright future," said the Tigers' veteran right fielder, who was 1-for-2 with a walk against the Mets' highly-touted 21-year-old right-hander.
"Before I went up to the plate, guys in the dugout were saying, 'He's a top prospect.' Well, he definitely showed it today. He has a great arm. He has a great curveball, and I saw him working on his changeup. He's not a top prospect for no reason."
Syndergaard was spared the chore of having to face Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera. However, Kinsler, Hunter and Victor Martinez were in Detroit's lineup, and they were a combined 1-for-5 against him.
Syndergaard walked three batters, two of whom scored, and struck out three. The 6-foot-6, 242-pound Syndergaard, who is expected to start the season at Triple-A, threw 52 pitches, 31 for strikes. Most were fastballs in the 93-97-mph range.
In his three innings, only three balls off Syndergaard left the infield.
"If he's going to be a big league pitcher, which he is, he needs to learn," admitted Mets' manager Terry Collins. "The kid's got composure. He knows what he's doing. He's going to be just fine.
"That third inning [when Syndergaard breezed, facing the minimum three batters, it] was proof he's got all the stuff he needs."
The Tigers got both of their runs off Syndergaard in the second inning, when Don Kelly and Daniel Fields, both of whom had walked, crossed the plate on Steve Lombardozzi's sharp single that Eric Young Jr., making his first start at second base, deflected into right field.
"I think I was trying to do a little too much that inning," Syndergaard admitted. "I wanted to throw more offspeed pitches today. I wanted to throw my changeup a little more. If you can't throw your changeup for a strike, hitters are just going to sit on the heater."
"He's just starting to learn how to pitch," said Mets catcher Taylor Teagarden. "He's just got to get more innings."
In his first spring outing on Monday, Syndergaard threw two scoreless innings and his fastball touched 98 mph in a 6-2 victory over the Braves. He surrendered one single and didn't walk anyone -- prompting Collins to declare, "Right now, he's on track to be special."
"I thought I did better than I did last time," said Syndergaard. "Hopefully, I'll get to four innings next time."
When asked if, after Saturday's start, he feels closer to the big leagues, Syndergaard said, "I feel closer. Actually, I felt a lot more confident."
Last season, Syndergaard was a combined 9-4 with a 3.06 ERA in 23 starts between Class A Advanced St. Lucie in the Florida State League and Double-A Binghamton in the Eastern League. In 117 2/3 innings, he yielded 107 hits and 28 walks, while recording 133 strikeouts.
Flores starts at hot corner against Detroit
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Versatile Wilmer Flores started at third base on Saturday, as the Mets continue to try to find possible places for the 6-foot-3, 203-pound infielder in their lineup.
Flores went 0-for-3, dropping his spring average to .063.
"We have to decide, if he makes this club, where he's going to fit," manager Terry Collins explained.
"So we decided to play him around the horn. We're trying to look at different guys in different spots. He'll play shortstop again this week. He can play second base. That's his main position -- and we know he can play first base."
deGrom continues stellar spring work
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Right-hander Jacob deGrom, another of the Mets' top pitching prospects, is still unscored upon this spring, after holding the Tigers to one hit and a walk in two innings of relief during Saturday's 3-2 win.
"I didn't have as much command as I usually do, I was falling behind hitters," admitted deGrom, who will most likely start the season at Triple-A, but could be pitching in the big leagues before the season is over. "I was a little wild today.
"But my arm feels really good. I'm very pleased with how it's been going. I'm happy with where I'm at, right now."
Long and lean, the 6-foot-4, 185-pound deGrom started last season at Class A Advanced St. Lucie and took the fast track up through Double-A Binghamton to Triple-A Las Vegas. He compiled a 7-7 record across the three stops, with a 4.51 ERA and 120 strikeouts over 147 2/3 innings.
• David Wright and Daniel Murphy, who made their first appearances of the spring on Friday, didn't make the trip on Saturday.
Shortstop Ruben Tejada (left hamstring), Ike Davis (calves) and Lucas Duda (left hamstring) also stayed behind. Collins said after the game that Davis and Duda will not play on Sunday, either.
• You can look for Young Jr. at second base again this spring. "I'm going to run him out there a couple more times," Collins said.
• Right-hander Zach Wheeler will start on Sunday afternoon against the Braves in Port St. Lucie. He'll be followed on the mound by Carlos Torres, Kyle Farnsworth, Jose Valverde, lefty Jack Leathersich, Jeurys Familia and Ryan Reid.
Bartolo Colon will start on Monday against the Marlins, also in Port St. Lucie. Miguel Socolovich, Scott Rice, Jeff Walters and Vic Black are also scheduled to pitch.
Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.