WASHINGTON -- One of Sandy Alderson's mantras as Mets general manager is that a team can never have too much pitching. Arms are fickle.These days, the Mets seem intent on proving it. Hours after the Mets revealed that Steven Matz is battling a bone spur in his elbow, multiple reports
WASHINGTON -- One of Sandy Alderson's mantras as Mets general manager is that a team can never have too much pitching. Arms are fickle.
These days, the Mets seem intent on proving it. Hours after the Mets revealed that Steven Matz is battling a bone spur in his elbow, multiple reports indicated that Noah Syndergaard has a similar injury, despite denials from the pitcher himself.
"I do not, no," Syndergaard said when asked directly if he has a bone spur or chips in his elbow. "My arm feels great. It's amazing what a little anti-inflammatory [medication] can do. ... There's nothing structurally wrong with my elbow at all. Sometimes, a little wear and tear will do that to you, but right now, my arm feels really good. I've just got to be ready to go in five days."
Syndergaard spoke those words after giving up seven hits, five runs and five more stolen bases over three innings of an 11-4 loss to the Nationals on Monday, throwing just 71 pitches. When asked if Syndergaard is dealing with a spur, manager Terry Collins hesitated before saying: "I don't really know what his is." Collins added that he removed Syndergaard from the game because of his heavy pitch count in the Nationals' five-run third inning, and not for any other reason.
"That was enough," Collins said. "I don't need that thing to flare back up."
Like Matz, Syndergaard entered an MRI tube following his previous start last week against the Royals, but the team announced that the test revealed only inflammation. Doctors prescribed routine medication, which Syndergaard is still taking.
But he struggled in Monday's outing, regardless of whether health or poor execution was the culprit. Entering the night, Syndergaard had walked more than one batter just four times in 15 starts, and had not issued more than two free passes in a game all season. Monday, he walked two of the first three Nationals he faced and three in total. And that was even before the Nationals started scoring runs.
When they did, it happened quickly. A Bryce Harper run-scoring single. A Daniel Murphy RBI fielder's choice. An Anthony Rendon two-run single and a Danny Espinosa RBI hit. Though Syndergaard flashed his usual triple-digit velocity throughout the outing, striking out five batters, that was the only window through which he looked anything like his normal self.
"My arm felt really good, actually," Syndergaard said, calling it an "embarrassing" outing. "It almost felt too good."
Within the context of the Mets' rotation, the uncertainty regarding Syndergaard's elbow is troubling. Matz underwent his second elbow examination of the year on Monday, and was diagnosed with a bone spur. Matt Harvey's mound issues have been well-documented, as have Jacob deGrom's velocity concerns, which only recently began subsiding. Zack Wheeler has endured multiple setbacks in his Tommy John rehab. Even steady Bartolo Colon missed nearly an entire game last week with a thumb injury.
For Syndergaard, health issues would also be an easy explanation, but neither he nor Collins were willing to go there. Still, the specter of injury is a lingering concern for a Mets team that could be without Matz this week, and that will now rely on Harvey to avoid a series loss against the arch-rival Nationals.
"When you've got a 4-0 lead with Noah Syndergaard on the mound, you've got to feel pretty comfortable," Collins said. "We went along and that lead was gone. That can certainly take the starch out of you."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.