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Even with splint on finger, Thor 'throwing rockets'

Mets hope for mid-July return for right-hander
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

DENVER -- Even now, almost four full weeks since his last appearance in a Major League game, Noah Syndergaard refers to the strained ligament in his right index finger as "minor." When told Wednesday that nearly a month has passed since the last time he pitched, Syndergaard paused and asked, "Has it been that long?"

It has, and will be a while yet before he returns. Although Syndergaard began a throwing progression off flat ground this week, he did so with a modified splint on his index finger. Syndergaard said that while he is not ready to begin pitching off a mound, doctors may clear him to throw without the splint when they examine him later this week in New York.

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DENVER -- Even now, almost four full weeks since his last appearance in a Major League game, Noah Syndergaard refers to the strained ligament in his right index finger as "minor." When told Wednesday that nearly a month has passed since the last time he pitched, Syndergaard paused and asked, "Has it been that long?"

It has, and will be a while yet before he returns. Although Syndergaard began a throwing progression off flat ground this week, he did so with a modified splint on his index finger. Syndergaard said that while he is not ready to begin pitching off a mound, doctors may clear him to throw without the splint when they examine him later this week in New York.

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"The symptoms have completely subsided," Syndergaard said. "My arm feels great. I feel like I'm throwing rockets."

If Syndergaard can advance to mound work before the end of this month, it's reasonable to think he could return at some point in mid-July. Given how much time he's missed, Syndergaard will likely require multiple bullpen sessions -- including at least one against live hitters -- as well as a Minor League rehab start before coming off the DL.

"We're looking forward to getting him back," manager Mickey Callaway said. "We're going to be a better team when he's active."

Syndergaard has not appeared in a game since May 25 in Milwaukee. Originally scheduled to return June 10 against the Yankees, he felt a recurrence of pain in his finger, prompting the Mets to scratch him from that start. In 11 outings, Syndergaard is 4-1 with a 3.06 ERA, 76 strikeouts and 13 walks in 64 2/3 innings. He says he does not know how he injured the digit.

"It really sucks, especially because this is such a minor injury," Syndergaard said. "Think about it, it's a finger injury. But I'm working on fine-tuning other parts of my game, trying to visualize pitches, and hopefully when I get back out there, I'm not rusty."

During his absence, Syndergaard's name has popped up frequently in trade rumors that, at least for now, remain more theoretical than realistic. Mets officials have indicated they will listen to offers on all of their players, including Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, but are unlikely to part with either of their two best pitchers.

"To be quite honest," Syndergaard said, "I haven't really been paying that much attention to that mumbo jumbo."

Roster move
After their relievers pitched 5 2/3 innings in Tuesday's loss to the Rockies, the Mets made a move to shore up their bullpen depth, recalling right-hander Chris Flexen from Triple-A Las Vegas. Flexen spent time with the Mets earlier this year, appearing in just one game. He held a 5.43 ERA in 11 starts and one relief appearance at Las Vegas.

In a corresponding move, the Mets optioned reliever Hansel Robles, who posted a 5.03 ERA in 16 appearances, to Triple-A instead of rookie Tim Peterson. Callaway said Peterson impressed him in allowing one run over his first 6 1/3 career innings, earning the right to stick in the big leagues.

"A lot of it's what Peterson has shown," Callaway said. "He's got a lot of deception, some swing-and-miss. He deserves to be up here right now, and we need a guy like him to help us out."

Medical update
An MRI taken Wednesday in New York revealed a strain in outfielder's Jay Bruce's right hip, though Callaway was unsure of the exact nature of the injury. Bruce went on the disabled list Tuesday, and is eligible to return May 29 in Miami.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

New York Mets, Noah Syndergaard