The Mets have been without Noah Syndergaard over the past two seasons as a result of his March 2020 Tommy John surgery. He’d embarked upon a minor league rehab assignment in May, but renewed elbow inflammation forced the club to shut him down for an additional six weeks.
Syndergaard is throwing again in hopes of a late-season return, but it seems the setback has cost him a chance at making it back as a starter. General manager Zack Scott suggested this evening the team is hoping to get the hard-throwing righty back as a reliever at some point next month (via Anthony DiComo of MLB.com).
Allowing Syndergaard to work in shorter stints upon his return would reduce the amount of time he’ll need to ramp up arm strength in preparation. The 28-year-old still hasn’t begun a rehab assignment, and he’ll surely need multiple weeks to build back up even if he’s working toward a bullpen workload. With a little less than eight weeks remaining in the season, it seems the club would rather shorten that process and get Syndergaard back in some capacity as quickly as possible.
The Mets got good work from the starting rotation early in the season, but that hasn’t been the case in recent weeks. Since July 18 — when New York placed Jacob deGrom on the injured list due to forearm inflammation — Mets starters have a 5.79 ERA that ranks 26th leaguewide. Marcus Stroman and Tylor Megill have pitched well lately, but Taijuan Walker has been bombed over his past five starts and Rich Hill hasn’t missed bats since being traded to New York.
deGrom was shut down from throwing for two weeks following his own setback on July 30. The two-time Cy Young award winner is still hoping to pitch this season, but he’s facing similar time pressures as Syndergaard. There’s no indication at this point that the Mets are considering bringing deGrom back as a reliever as well. That said, there’s still plenty of uncertainty regarding his projected timetable.
The Mets’ rotation woes have contributed to a disastrous few weeks that has seen them fall to third place in the NL East. New York is still only 2.5 games back of the Phillies (and a half game behind the Braves), so there’s plenty of opportunity to right the ship. Getting some sort of contributions from Syndergaard — even if it’s not in the role hoped for entering the season — would be a nice boon to their chances of climbing back atop the division.
The final two months of the year are also critical to Syndergaard personally. He’s slated to hit free agency at the end of the season. His late-season form will certainly have an effect on the market he’ll find. Before the injury woes, Syndergaard looked like one of the top starting pitchers in this year’s class thanks to a 3.73 ERA/3.25 FIP between 2018-19.