With all the injuries the New York Mets have endured, one might think the team would focus solely on who is playing instead of who isn’t. Rafael Montero is pitching well lately, and Jacob deGrom delivers night in and night out. Yet, Noah Syndergaard’s absence from the rotation continues to loom large. The 24-year-old landed on the disabled list on May 1 with a lat muscle tear. Since then, the Mets have tried, and failed, to replace him in the rotation.
Syndergaard had hoped to return before season’s end, but he might have to put that plan on hold. He was scratched from his simulated rehab game on Sunday due to “general soreness.” The soreness arose after his 36-pitch rehab outing last Thursday, according to Fred Kerber at The New York Post.
“We aren’t going to push him, first of all,” Terry Collins said on Sunday. “We will go at his pace and how he feels.”
Syndergaard wanted to throw a bullpen session, but Collins ruled out the possibility. He knows all too well what happened the last time he let an injured Syndergaard pitch. Syndergaard was dealing with biceps soreness in late April. The Mets ace still wanted to pitch and Collins relented to his request. Syndergaard left that April 30 start against the Washington Nationals in the second inning with a lat muscle tear, the same one ailing him today.
Team doctors insisted there was no connection between the biceps soreness and the lat injury. Even so, Collins and team management came under swift scrutiny for their decision to allow their ace back on the mound in that risky physical state. They still hope he can return before season’s end.
“I think it’s important by October 1 that this guy can pitch in a game,” Collins added. “Will he? We don’t know. But we hope to get him to that point so when he goes into the winter, where he is going to rest his body, we know it’s OK.”
Can a different off-season training regimen save Syndergaard from further injury? By his own admission, it seems so. After adding nearly 17 pounds of muscle last off-season, Syndergaard plans to re-evaluate his winter workout plan.
“So much of what I’ve learned this year,” he said in July, “is that I thought I was doing what I needed to be doing. But I realize now how messed up my body was, and I’m working hard to get it back to normal.”
He seems to realize that he had not trained effectively for his position. A pitcher’s success does not rely solely on brute strength. Cardiovascular endurance is needed, as are sturdy legs and fluid motion. Syndergaard neglected some of those exercises, and focused a bit too much on weight lifting.
“Nobody really wants to stretch now,” he added, “but I’ve had this desire to become a more well-rounded athlete, as opposed to just someone who lifts and is strong. I want to be strong, and be mobile, hostile and agile.”
One could speculate endlessly on whether heavy workouts contributed to his biceps soreness, or whether a lack of stretching tied into his lat muscle tear. What is clear is that Syndergaard is taking heed and forming a better all-around workout regimen. Over the summer, he began working out at the Soho Strength Lab in New York.
One program, called Kinstretch, helps him improve his strength and flexibility, especially as it pertains to joints. He plans to continue this program into this offseason as he looks to avoid another injury-riddled season in 2018.
“I don’t see myself having another injury like that,” Syndergaard said. “I know what my weaknesses are, and I know how to address them.”
The Mets are easing Syndergaard back into action. They have little to play for this season, so there is no need to rush Syndergaard back and risk further injury. The team has playoff aspirations for 2018, and Syndergaard is an integral part of that journey.
Jesse Andreozzi is a staff writer for Outside Pitch Sports Network covering the New York Mets. Follow him on Twitter @Jesse_Andreozzi