Noah Syndergaard ticked off his to-do list in a fairly blasé manner.
He already got a haircut (not too short, don’t worry), so that’s done. He had a welcome home dinner at Citi Field that he absolutely had to attend Wednesday. He figured he’d get to bed pretty early, then have a fairly big breakfast. A soft-tissue massage would probably be a good idea, too, and he absolutely wants to make sure that he stays relaxed.
And after all that, the 6-6, 240-pound righthander will take the mound in front of 45,000 or so screaming fans, throw 100-mph thunderbolts at the Cardinals and try to set the pace for a season that will prove thousands of naysayers wrong. You know, a regular Thursday.
“It’s going to be a hell of a fun year,” he said. “I’m ready to hear the crowd, the electricity, and all the fans out there. I’m looking forward to it.”
Syndergaard will be the Mets’ Opening Day starter for the second year in a row, and after coming off an injury-shortened season, he said he’s very, very ready. He worked out with the rest of the Mets on Wednesday, and had a session in the bullpen. He’s hoping to eclipse 200 innings — as Jacob deGrom did last year — and “compete my [butt] off.”
He’s already one of the most feared pitchers in baseball, and Mickey Callaway thinks this could be the year Syndergaard approaches the top echelon, along the lines of his manager’s former pupil, Corey Kluber.
“He’s right there,” Callaway said. “Him consistently getting out on the field is probably the only thing that is missing. When Noah Syndergaard has pitched, he’s dominated. I think that he’s done a great job this offseason of doing some of the little things those other guys implement to put himself in the same caliber.”
Syndergaard repeatedly wowed in spring training, his velocity peaking while other guys were still warming up. That, along with a new regimen meant to keep him healthy — he’s focused on flexibility and athleticism, as opposed to straight weight training — has Syndergaard and his teammates optimistic that they won’t repeat last year, when he missed more than three months with a torn lat.
“I’ll be honest with you, I faced him four times and he struck me out four times, so he’s filthy on the mound,” new teammate Todd Frazier said. “He’s a bulldog. I think mound presence is huge in baseball. I think when he gets on the mound, he’s raring to go, full tilt, and his pitches are devastating. He throws over 100 miles an hour, he has changeups in the low 90s and he’s got other pitches that pitchers dream of throwing. For me, I’m just glad to be on his team and play behind him.”
In 2016, his last full year with the team, Syndergaard went 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA, and he wasn’t all that much worse last season — 2.97 ERA in seven starts.
“Everybody knows he has a good fastball,” Callaway said. “His other pitches are very, very above average as well. If he can use all the information, go out there and attack hitters with his best stuff, he’s going to be a very good pitcher. He’s just got to go out there, relax and do his thing.”
Relax, huh? Turns out that was on the to-do list Syndergaard shared on Wednesday. It’s listed right before dominating on Opening Day.