WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Noah Syndergaard calls pitching an act of "controlled aggression," which explains the 20 minutes he spent pacing around the clubhouse Monday morning, nervous energy radiating off him. The only Met to win a World Series game this decade, Syndergaard acted as if the most significant
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Noah Syndergaard calls pitching an act of "controlled aggression," which explains the 20 minutes he spent pacing around the clubhouse Monday morning, nervous energy radiating off him. The only Met to win a World Series game this decade, Syndergaard acted as if the most significant innings of his life were about to unfold in a Grapefruit League game featuring mostly Minor Leaguers, in front of barely 3,000 people at Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
Once uncaged, Syndergaard opened the first inning with four consecutive fastballs of 100 mph. He ended it with a 92-mph changeup that Jose Altuve, the reigning American League MVP Award winner, said would strike him out 100 times out of 100.
All told in two perfect innings, Syndergaard hit at least 100 mph 11 times in 22 pitches. To put that in perspective, only three starting pitchers on Earth fired that many triple-digit fastballs all of last season. (Syndergaard was, of course, one of them.)
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It wasn't enough. Is it ever? Still frothing at the mouth, Syndergaard stalked to a back field behind the stadium, ripped off his shirt and ran a series of sprints. As he finished, a Mets staffer asked him if he wanted to put his T-shirt back on for a televised interview. He said it was too hot, which seemed to contradict what came out of his mouth next.
"I didn't even feel like I was exerting a whole lot of effort," Syndergaard said of an outing that matched his longest since last April.
If Monday's spectacle was low effort, consider the Mets mostly impressed -- and at least a little concerned. Even before Syndergaard began throwing live batting-practice sessions this month, manager Mickey Callaway cautioned him about the risks of doing too much, too fast, particularly after missing nearly five months last season due to a torn lat. Although Syndergaard returned to make two starts at the end of September, he never truly reintroduced his body to the rigors of throwing harder than just about any living human, inning after inning, week after week, month after month.
Syndergaard, who prides himself on heavy weightlifting despite recent attempts to shift some focus toward flexibility, said he understood. Then he went out and put on an exhibition in West Palm Beach, impressing Altuve, Justin Verlander -- "I'm a fan," the former AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner said -- and even himself.
"It means I've got to keep on doing what I'm doing, I guess," Syndergaard said. "I'm just working on being strong in all the right places, being mobile in all the right places, and just continuing to go out there and have fun."
For now, the Mets -- whose ability to compete rests as much on Syndergaard's ability to make 30-plus starts as anything else -- were content to take the positives and ignore the rest.
"My heart might have been beating a little fast when I saw 100, 101," said Callaway, a former pitching coach. "But I look more at the delivery and if he's trying to overthrow. He wasn't doing any of that."
As he looks to reestablish himself as the Mets' best pitcher, if not the best in all of baseball, Syndergaard swears he has learned from the stubbornness that prompted him to try throwing -- rather than resting -- his way past his lat injury last summer. But it is clear that Syndergaard has no intention of dialing back his aggression, which the Mets figure is fine as long as he uses it responsibly.
Time will tell, just as time will reveal whether this is not, in fact, even Syndergaard's ceiling. When asked if throwing 101 in his first spring start means there are higher levels yet to reach, Syndergaard paused.
"That's a really good question," he said. "I have no idea. We'll find out."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.