Noah Syndergaard’s biggest form of competition over the next several months might be trying to return to the Mets sooner rather than later.
Speaking to a group of youth baseball players this week on a Zoom chat, the Mets right-hander said his goal is not only to pitch in 2021, but to start the season with the team. Syndergaard underwent Tommy John surgery on March 26, after spring training had been suspended for the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I think this is the best time to [rehab] considering there is no baseball right now, but I fully intend to be ready for next Opening Day, but doing it in a smart way,” Syndergaard said. “The rehab is 12-15 months and I see that as a competition.”
The Mets are well aware of the rehab’s varying nature. Among the extreme cases was Zack Wheeler, who tore his ulnar collateral ligament in spring training 2015 and missed two full seasons rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Matt Harvey tore his UCL and in August 2013 and held off several weeks before undergoing surgery because the club had informed him he wouldn’t be allowed to pitch the next season, regardless. Harvey had weighed the possibility of pitching with the torn ligament.
As somebody who can become a free agent after the 2021 season, Syndergaard has added motivation to return as quickly as possible and boost his value. Syndergaard, 27, last season went 10-8 with a 4.28 ERA and 1.234 WHIP over 34 starts. He avoided arbitration over the winter by agreeing to a $9.7 million contract for this season.
On the Zoom chat Syndergaard indicated he’s been resting at home in Florida, playing pool basketball and “a lot of left-handed horse” against teammate Robert Gsellman.
“I am doing a lot of left-handed things,” Syndergaard said. “I’ve had a real nice quarantine, honestly. I haven’t really had much cabin fever. I do miss baseball. Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to compete this year. Hopefully, at some point we will have some sort of normalcy return.”
Should there be a season, the Mets still have five experienced starting pitchers — Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz, Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha — but will be short on rotation depth. Syndergaard’s inclusion in the rotation would have allowed the Mets to keep Wacha or Matz in the bullpen as a potential spot starter.
“No doubt the loss of Noah will have an effect on us,” pitching coach Jeremy Hefner said in an email. “He is a tremendous athlete with many tools at his disposal. We will support him in his rehab journey and look forward to him pitching in Queens again.”
The Mets’ starting pitching depth includes names such as untested minor leaguers David Peterson, Franklyn Kilome and Thomas Szapucki, along with Walker Lockett and Corey Oswalt, both of whom bounced between Triple-A Syracuse and the Mets last season.
“There is a solid group of pitchers from which we can call upon,” Hefner said. “I am not suggesting any of them are Noah at this point, but we are confident in our player development system as well as our ability to develop at the major league level to fill that void the best we can.”
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