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Syndergaard focuses on athleticism for 2018

New training regimen has right-hander bullish on return to form
Special to MLB.com

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- When it comes to hair, Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard doesn't have as much in common with staff mate Jacob deGrom these days.

And Syndergaard said it's going to stay that way -- at least from his perspective. "Absolutely not," Syndergaard responded on Wednesday when asked if he had plans to cut his flowing hair like the recently shorn deGrom, who now sports a much shorter hairstyle.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- When it comes to hair, Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard doesn't have as much in common with staff mate Jacob deGrom these days.

And Syndergaard said it's going to stay that way -- at least from his perspective. "Absolutely not," Syndergaard responded on Wednesday when asked if he had plans to cut his flowing hair like the recently shorn deGrom, who now sports a much shorter hairstyle.

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"I can't imagine cutting mine anytime soon. It's like Samson. I might lose my power. I haven't even seen [deGrom] yet. I probably wouldn't recognize him," added Syndergaard.

While the lighthearted moment provided a few laughs on Syndergaard's first day of informal workouts at Field 2 of the Mets' training complex, the serious question is whether or not Mets players can stay healthy after being beset by injuries throughout the season in 2017.

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There were no major injuries until left-handed pitcher Steven Matz was diagnosed with a tender elbow and scratched from his start on March 26 as trailers and cargo vehicles were being loaded to head north as the Grapefruit League season neared its end.

The health issue became more problematic in the regular season. Matz was the first to be lost with a flexor strain irritation that sidelined him until June, but the biggest victim and probably the most important loss was Syndergaard after an April 30 start in Washington against the National League East-rival Nationals.

The right-hander sustained a torn lat muscle and would be shut down for four months. It was just his fifth start, but Syndergaard didn't return to the mound for New York until Sept. 23. He made two starts that totaled just three innings, but he said the pair of appearances was important to him.

"You don't want to go into the offseason in a rehab protocol. I worked so hard for four months that I felt I needed a little bit of a reward to go out there and have success and show that I can come back from a serious injury like that healthy," he said.

"My personal goal is to stay healthy, but even then that's hard to control. I try to focus on goals that are within your own means. I just try to put my body in the best possible situation every day and become a better pitcher."

Syndergaard, 25, hasn't been told about the plan for Spring Training, but under new manager Mickey Callaway and pitching coach Dave Eiland, it promises to be vastly different from last year, when the tall right-hander came to camp much bulkier and the coaching staff devised a throwing plan that greatly reduced stress on pitchers so early in the year.

Again, it all comes back to Syndergaard's body. His workout routine with lifting and his core, not his hair, has him optimistic about 2018.

The approach started as he rehabbed the lat injury. Syndergaard, who recently bought a house in Dallas, likes his new routine better than the one during the offseason before 2017's Spring Training.

"I'm trying to become more athletic overall and doing the right kind of lifts," said the leaner Syndergaard. "It's lifting with proper form and making sure your core is involved. It's turning on certain muscles that haven't been activated in a while. I became very lat-dominant. I'm trying to activate muscles that are going on in my back.

"With it being in the offseason, I could really go pedal to the metal with [the training program]."

Syndergaard expects the Mets to be able to go full bore in 2018, too. He predicted that the health of the pitching staff combined with new acquisitions like Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak and Jose Reyes could produce great results.

But he added it all comes back to being healthy.

"I think if the pitching stays healthy, it'll be a very interesting season," Syndergaard said. "Interesting in a good way, though."

Bill Whitehead is a contributor to MLB.com.

New York Mets, Noah Syndergaard