Dwight Gooden had the same concern many Mets fans did when he heard and read that Noah Syndergaard had bulked up in the offseason. It went something like this: Uh, oh.
The former Mets pitching star, who said he got to know the current Mets pitching star this past offseason, feared Syndergaard might be putting his body at risk by unnecessarily seeking even more power and velocity.
Sure enough, Syndergaard on Monday was diagnosed with a partially torn lat muscle in his right side and is out indefinitely.
“I thought about it when I read a quote that he wants to get bigger and throw harder,” Gooden said on Tuesday at the annual BTIG Charity Day event in Manhattan. “I mean, that’s fine, but 80 percent of the pitchers in the league would like to have his stuff. He has above-average stuff.
“He doesn’t need to throw any harder. He’s just got to learn how to use his stuff, and that comes with experience. But once you bulk up, for a pitcher, that’s what happens. I think a lot of times when you see a lot of injuries, especially the Tommy Johns now, I don’t think the pitchers are training for their position.
“I think they’re training to get bigger and stronger and throw harder, but to me pitching is about mechanics and location and changing speeds and reading bat speeds. That’s pitching.”
Gooden said he is confident Syndergaard will bounce back and learn from this. That includes the fact that he was said to resist having an MRI that might have revealed the tear before it worsened.
“I just think sometimes the front office has to step in because as an athlete we want to go out there,” he said. “We want to be the hero and we want to do stuff our body might not allow us to do. Sometimes we have to have somebody come in and force us to come out.”
Gooden said he was expecting big things from the Mets’ staff this season and called it better overall than the ones on which Gooden starred in the mid-1980s. But health remains an ongoing concern.
“They just have to start training for the position,” he said. “I think with the salaries today, everybody’s got their own personal trainers. These guys might not be baseball-related strength coaches . . . Velocity is not everything. It’s a big part, but it’s not everything.”
Gooden recently publicly reconciled with former teammate Darryl Strawberry, with whom he has had a complex relationship. Does he think the two have made up for good this time?
“I think so,” Gooden said. “We just take it a day at a time. It’s like you have brothers, blood brothers. One day you love ’em, one day you hate ’em. Me and Darryl, we had a love-hate relationship, all right. I think things are real now between us . . . We have so much in common, both good and bad. I think I need him, and I think he needs me.”
Their most recent falling out was related to Strawberry publicly expressing concern over Gooden’s health. Gooden said he feels fine. “Now we just need the Mets, their health to be good,” he said. “Once their health is good, I’ll be better.”