Noah Syndergaard is closing in on a return to the majors — for real this time, the Mets hope.
He is set to begin this week his third minor-league rehabilitation assignment of the year. After likely multiple appearances with Triple-A Syracuse, the only affiliate that still will be playing, Syndergaard’s nearly two-year absence should end, if all goes well.
That timeline pencils him in for activation next weekend in Milwaukee or the days after that at Citi Field against the Marlins.
First, though, Syndergaard will complete another live batting practice session against Mets hitters on Sunday.
"(Sunday) is a very important day for him, just to keep the progression to getting him into competition," manager Luis Rojas said Saturday.
Although the Mets have talked about using Syndergaard as a reliever, Rojas mentioned the possibility of using him as an opener — a reliever who tosses an inning or two at the start of a game.
That would benefit Syndergaard by allowing him to complete his usual pre-start procedures.
"Relieving is something that he hasn’t done much, but . . . we’ll have to talk about how we’re going to treat it," Rojas said. "Why not open and then go with somebody (who can pitch more innings) so he goes through a routine?"
Syndergaard, who had Tommy John surgery in March 2020, has been close to a comeback before. Or so he and the Mets thought.
His first rehab assignment, in May, ended when his surgically repaired right elbow became inflamed, causing him to be shut down for more than a month. His second rehab assignment, in August, ended when he tested positive for COVID-19.
With two weeks left in the season, they’ll give it another go. Syndergaard most recently pitched in the majors on Sept. 29, 2019.
Seth Lugo’s 5.63 ERA in eight September appearances has contrnibuted to the Mets’ struggles. But what concerns Rojas is his five walks in 37 batters faced, a much greater rate than normal.
"The command got him (Friday). That’s atypical to see," Rojas said. "He’s a guy who has really good command. To be missing arm-side like that, it’s worrisome a little bit. This is not Seth. But then you see him striking out Matt Joyce and that’s Seth. There’s nothing that he’s complaining about."
Rojas said Lugo has been unavailable more than often this season due to "a tough time recovering from outing to outing." Lugo missed the first third of the season after February elbow surgery.
Jacob deGrom (right elbow sprain) threw from the slope of the mound again Saturday, an intermediate step before a full-fledged bullpen session . . . Aaron Loup’s 1.03 ERA is best in Mets history among relievers with at least 50 innings . . . Rojas on Jonathan Villar: "Everyone here enjoys watching him play because he’s so — he’s unpredictable . . . (He) will do a lot of things that will keep the other team on their toes, not knowing what’s going to come next. He’s just an exciting player to watch."
Sign up for Newsday’s Mets Messages for updates directly to your phone via text, free with a Newsday digital subscription. Learn more at newsday.com/metstext.