When Noah Syndergaard abruptly left Friday night’s start, the Mets saw their season flashing before their eyes.
In a season in which they have lost their captain, David Wright, and on Friday morning, learned that Matt Harvey would be done for the season, the thought that something could happen to Syndergaard was unthinkable.
They have a lot riding on Syndergaard, who has emerged as the ace of their stacked starting rotation, and he is the one that has to carry them the rest of the way and, if they make it, deep into the playoffs.
Syndergaard, who is pitching with a bone spur in his elbow, exited Friday night’s game with the Nationals with two outs in the fifth inning with a 2-2 count on Jayson Werth, and it the cause was termed “arm fatigue.”
“Honestly that never happens,” Syndergaard said after the game. “I didn’t have any pain, didn’t have any discomfort. I tried my best to try and stay and finish that inning but Terry (Collins) had other plans for me.”
Less than 24 hours later, the Mets could breathe a sigh of relief as doctors confirmed what Syndergaard said on Friday night, that he has no apparent injury and that his arm is just tired.
“I far as I know, there will not be (a further disagnosis),” Collins said in his pregame remarks on Saturday afternoon. “The tests that they put on him last night, with the description that he gave to the doctors, they said it was looked like fatigue more than anything.
“There was no discomfort, there is absolutely no tightness, there was no stiffness, no pain or twinge, anything. All of a sudden, he said ‘my arm just got tired’ and he felt it, he knew it, so he backed down. He said “look, the last thing that I wanted to have to do was overthrow, and I didn’t feel good.'”
The one thing disconcerting about this is that it is unclear if Syndergaard is suffering through a “dead arm” period that pitchers normally deal with in spring training (this is July after all) or something completely different.
“This is the first time I’ve seen anything like this,” Collins said. “You know that some guys can go through a ‘dead arm’ thing, but they pretty much start the game at 92, 93, and not 98, you know, so when I saw that dip in velocity, again, when he was pitching to Werth, and I saw that ball come in at 91, and I thought it was a fastball, and that’s why I asked (pitching coach) Dan (Warthen) what it was, and Dan thought it was something off-speed also, and the same with the second pitch, we thought it was off-speed, and I said ‘boy, that sure doesn’t look good, or it’s really bad slider.’ When I saw Rene (Rivera) going to mound, I said there”s something wrong here because I think those are fastballs, so that’s why I went out.”
The innings that the 23-year old Sydnergaard has thrown the last two years could be a reason for this. He has logged 105 2/3 innings this season, and is coming off a year in which he totaled 198 2/3, a career-high in his first year pitching in the majors.
“I think it’s just that time of the year,” Syndergaard said. “My first full season in the big leagues. I’ve thrown a lot of pitches, thrown a lot of innings so far. I just think it boils down to just a little bit of fatigue. There’s no pain, there’s no discomfort in my elbow regarding the bone spur. It felt like I could still go out there and pitch through that. It just really all boils down to a little shoulder fatigue.”
“Well, we’re very, very aware of how many he’s thrown and how many he threw last year,” Collins said of monitoring Syndergaard’s innings. “But the process is, you don’t subtract, you add on. Even if he threw 175 innings last year, 180, and I think he threw almost 190 with the playoffs, you’re hoping this year 210’s, 215 not out of the range, that it’s not out of the realm of possibility of getting him up over 200. I haven’t seen a guy that, again he’s smart enough to back down because he said ‘jeez, I just don’t feel good, I’ll back off, trying to overthrow,’ that tells me he was on top of what was going on.”
Sydergaard will not be pitching in the All-star Game in San Diego on Tuesday, but he will be making the trip so the Mets coaches – who will be leading the National League squad – can monitor him.
“Give him some rest and we’ll resume the process of, you know, hopefully he’s fine. I know that he will go to San Diego with us so that will allow Dan (Warthen) and (bullpen coach) Ricky (Bones) the chance to monitor him, and then when we go to Philly, I’m sure that first day in Philly, he’ll probably throw a little side, see how he feels.”
If the prescription for Syndergaard is rest and makes his return a little later after the All-Star break, the Mets are very lucky.
In a season in which it has felt like anything that could go wrong has, this may be the sign that brighter things are ahead for the Mets, or at least as light as Thor’s blonde hair.