BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Noah Syndergaard entered the 2017 season with the goal of pitching the Mets into the World Series for the second time in his young career. He spent last winter adding 17 pounds of muscle in offseason training and did not foresee any future complications. On April 30 against the Washington Nationals, Syndergaard suffered a tear of a lat muscle on his right side, and with it, he lost the majority of his season, dashing the Mets’ playoff hopes.
While there were some that did not expect Syndergaard to pitch again this year, the Mets felt otherwise and held out hope that their ace could return to a big league mound in September before preparing for next season. On Thursday, he made progress towards that goal with his second rehab outing, pitching for the Brooklyn Cyclones in their regular season finale against the Staten Island Yankees.
Syndergaard’s previous rehab start came on Sunday with the Gulf Coast Mets.
“I just want to go right back out there and prove to the team, myself, and the fans that I can go back out there and I can come back healthy after a serious injury,” Syndergaard said.
Syndergaard endured initial difficulty in Brooklyn’s 8-4 loss to Staten Island, allowing a leadoff walk to Andy Diaz and a run-scoring triple to Wilkerman Garcia, but rebounded with consecutive strikeouts and escaped the first inning while his fastball peaked at 100 MPH. Despite maintaining his velocity, the Mansfield, Texas native struggled with command in the defeat, allowing three hits and three runs in two innings (36 pitches) and gave up a two-run double to Diaz on his final pitch.
“I felt pretty good,” Syndergaard said. “I felt amazing in the bullpen, but when I got on the mound, I tried to do a little too much. The anxiety of being in an actual game gets to me a little bit, but it was a step in the right direction.”
The challenge for Syndergaard at this juncture of the season is adjusting to pitching in competitive action after sitting on the sidelines for a significant period. One goal is his rehab outings is to reestablish a feel for both his fastball and secondary pitches. If Syndergaard displays confidence in his stuff, his command should improve as he moves closer to an eventual return to the Mets.
“I haven’t thrown in a big league baseball game in four months, so I got a little excited,” Syndergaard said. “Going into this start, I was looking to locate my fastball and secondary pitches. I’m also trying to build back some endurance.”
Other adjustments Syndergaard prepares to make entail slight modifications to his workout regimen in the wake of his injury but he realizes the majority of those changes will come in the offseason through conditioning programs. In the interim, Syndergaard looks to improve his mobility and have the opportunity to contribute to the Mets in the final weeks of the season.
Although it is unclear where Syndergaard will make his next appearance, he feels ready to compete in big league action and take the necessary measures to ensure success.
“I haven’t really changed everything yet because it’s not necessarily the offseason, but I’m trying to implement things in my training, such as extra mobility. I don’t really know what route the team is going to take with me whether it is coming out of the bullpen or pitching as a starter. I want to prove I can go out there and stay healthy.”
Before his recent injury, Syndergaard was on a meteoric rise as one of the top pitchers in baseball with his first career All-Star appearance during the 2016 season and pitched seven scoreless innings in the NL Wild Card Playoff against the San Francisco Giants last October. The absence of Syndergaard’s presence as the ace of the Mets’ staff significantly hindered the club as injuries mounted, and the focus shifted towards the 2018 season.
“It’s been tough to watch,” Syndergaard said referring to the Mets’ struggles. “It’s all about staying positive and being a good teammate.
“I don’t want to let ten months go by without pitching in a big league baseball game. I feel with a lot of guys it takes time to knock off the rust. I want to prove that I can come back after missing four months.”