NEW YORK -- Noah Syndergaard took his time between throws, concentrating on his target, periodically glancing back at pitching coach Dan Warthen. Syndergaard threw just 20 pitches at less than 100 percent Tuesday in his first bullpen session since tearing his right lat muscle April 30 in Washington. He wanted
NEW YORK -- Noah Syndergaard took his time between throws, concentrating on his target, periodically glancing back at pitching coach Dan Warthen. Syndergaard threw just 20 pitches at less than 100 percent Tuesday in his first bullpen session since tearing his right lat muscle April 30 in Washington. He wanted to be sure to fire each one with conviction.
For Syndergaard, it was the next significant step in his road back from a disabled-list stint that will ultimately cost him more than two-thirds of this season. Pitching off a mound for the first time at Yankee Stadium, Syndergaard inched closer to a Minor League rehab assignment and, ultimately, a return to the Mets.
"I felt like I didn't take any time off," said Syndergaard, who threw 18 fastballs and two changeups in the session. "This is the best that I've felt."
The next step for Syndergaard will be another bullpen session, allowing him to build up arm strength prior to his rehab assignment. For the Mets, Syndergaard's return won't change a season that has long since seen them slip out of contention. But both he and the team consider it important for him to log some big league innings down the stretch.
"It's more for Noah than for anybody else," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Certainly, we are on top of the medical situation and the doctors know he's healing. But to get back out there -- I don't care how many times it is -- to see that he's back eases his mind, and puts him in a positive frame as he heads into the wintertime."
Once Syndergaard reaches the offseason, he plans to continue focusing on exercises designed to increase his "mobility," particularly in the kinetic chain from his right hip to his shoulder. That does not mean Syndergaard will abandon the heavy weights that he used to tone his 6-foot-6, 240-pound frame, bragging in Spring Training that he added significant muscle with the aim of throwing harder. But it does mean his focus will be less singular.
"I'm still going to lift heavy and be strong," Syndergaard said. "We're still professional athletes here. We've still got to be strong and durable. I'm just going to be more smart about it. ... I expect to be the same guy in terms of velocity."
More than anyone, a healthy Syndergaard has the ability to change the Mets' fortunes in a hurry. A preseason National League Cy Young Award favorite who posted a 3.29 ERA in five starts prior to his injury, Syndergaard said it has been difficult to watch this season play out from the sidelines. But with him and Jacob deGrom headlining the Mets' 2018 rotation, Syndergaard knows the Mets have a chance to jump right back into contention.
"I just wake up every morning and try to be as positive as I possibly can," Syndergaard said. "It's unfortunate I haven't been able to get out there in a while and compete. It's all just kind of a mental game when you're injured."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook.