DENVER — Noah Syndergaard walked in from the Coors Field outfield Monday afternoon with a ball in his hand and pep in his step. With the soreness in the strained ligament in his right index finger having subsided, he played catch for the first time in a week and a half.
Although his return to a major-league game is still likely weeks away, Monday marked the start of a throwing program, a noteworthy step. He played catch at 60 feet and will do the same from about 75 feet Tuesday.
Manager Mickey Callaway said that although Syndergaard hasn’t pitched since May 25 — 3 1⁄2 weeks ago — his build-up might not take long considering the nature of the injury.
“They’ve been doing a lot of shoulder-strengthening exercises and things like that, to make sure his arm stays in shape,” Callaway said. “Being able to keep up with his arm exercises, he probably hasn’t lost a ton of arm strength.”
Pitching coach Dave Eiland said Syndergaard will need “at least one” rehab start.
“Maybe two. That’s not etched in stone,” Eiland said. “We’ll give him whatever it takes. If we don’t feel comfortable and he doesn’t feel comfortable with two, he’ll throw a third. We’ll do whatever it takes [until] we see what we need to see out of him and he’s feeling [good] as well.”
A painless Cespedes
For Yoenis Cespedes (strained right hip flexor), progress Monday took the form of the absence of soreness during a physical-therapy session after he had the weekend off.
“We’re going to see how he comes in [Tuesday] and try to see if he can do a little more ground-based stuff,” Callaway said. “Not necessarily running, but get him on his feet a little bit more instead of just getting treatment on the area.”
Cespedes is in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and hasn’t started baseball activities.
A Mets-Rockies connection: Todd Frazier was Colorado’s 37th-round draft pick in 2004. He never came close to joining the club. “There was a chance, but it was very slight,” Frazier said. He instead went to Rutgers, and the Reds drafted him in the first round three years later . . . Asdrubal Cabrera is fifth among second basemen in the All-Star voting update released Monday, the only Met among the top five at his position (top 15 for outfielders).