TEMPE, Ariz. -- Right-hander Noah Syndergaard made his Angels spring debut on Tuesday, allowing one run on two hits and a walk with five strikeouts over three innings in a Minor League game against the D-backs’ High-A affiliate.
Syndergaard, who signed a one-year deal worth $21 million in November, threw 50 pitches with 34 going for strikes. The lone run he allowed came in the third inning on an RBI double that hit off the center fielder’s glove on what could’ve been ruled an error. It was Syndergaard’s first time pitching in a game since Oct. 3, as he was limited to just two innings in the Majors last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery on March 26, 2020.
“I hardly got any sleep last night,” Syndergaard said. “My nerves were flowing all throughout this morning. Just good getting my feet wet and getting out there and facing some competition.”
Syndergaard, 29, made it a point of emphasis to throw his slider more on Tuesday, as he wasn’t permitted to throw that pitch late last season and was only allowed to throw fastballs. But Syndergaard was mostly pleased by the way he located his breaking ball Tuesday, especially considering he’s only been throwing it to hitters over the last week or so.
“I felt pretty good about it,” Syndergaard said. “Some of the breaking balls, I didn’t have great control over, but I was able to make adjustments on the fly. I still executed some good quality pitches. It was great to come out here and get my work in. Last year, I was advised not to throw my breaking balls or slider, per se, and I decided to ax the curveball. I just want to get as many reps as I possibly can throwing breaking balls, because I'm going to need them this year.”
Syndergaard’s fastball mostly sat at around 94 mph, and he said that’s normal for this time of year. His fastball averaged 97.7 mph in 2019 and 94.7 mph last year. It’s also notable he didn’t have the adrenaline of facing Major Leaguers or throwing in front of fans.
“I expect that,” Syndergaard said. “Throwing on a back field and coming off a surgery, I don't expect to be throwing 100 [mph] right off the bat. As long as I can stay healthy.”
Syndergaard said one of the keys going forward is to not have to worry about thinking about his surgically repaired elbow or his mechanics while on the mound. He said now that he’s two years removed from the surgery, he doesn’t worry about an injury, but that he’s still trying to get his mechanics in better order this spring.
“There are times I’m still focused on my delivery,” Syndergaard said. “But it’s more based off the results. Like if my slider hangs, I know something in my delivery isn’t quite right. We have three weeks to go, so I still have time to work on my craft and get ready for Opening Day.”
The mental part of coming off Tommy John surgery can be the most difficult part for a pitcher, but Syndergaard said he’s not having any trouble letting it rip with his fastball or slider. He said more than anything it’s about staying even-keeled this year, which he said is the most important season of his six-year career.
“I just do my best trying to stay neutral in all aspects of my life,” Syndergaard said. “Don't let things get too high or too low. I know there's a lot of excitement and a lot of expectations. It is a really important year for me, but just got to stay focused and got to stay the same.”