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Noah Syndergaard contemplates adding elevated fastball

Hitters have been catching up to the Mets ace and he wants to add a surprise to his repertoire.

Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaarpitches against the Rockies

Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaarpitches against the Rockies during the first inning at Citi Field on Sunday, May 6, 2018. Credit: Brad Penner

CINCINNATI — Noah Syndergaard came away from another mediocre start over the weekend with a new desire to implement an old idea: elevate his fastball, not his pitch count.

Manager Mickey Callaway said he and pitching coach Dave Eiland have spoken with Syndergaard since spring training about that idea — occasionally turning his heat into high heat — to add a little something extra to his repertoire.

But it’s easier said than done, especially for someone like Syndergaard, whose height (6-6) and mechanics make for a downhill delivery.

“He’s kind of gotten to the point where he’s willing to try it and work on it in the bullpen, see if he can take it into the game,” Callaway said. “He’s so tall and he leverages the ball so good, sometimes it may be difficult for him to get the ball up there.”

Syndergaard said Sunday that he is open to the idea because he thinks hitters step to the plate knowing he throws strikes and throws low in the zone. And there might be something to that feeling of predictability. Hitters this year are batting .323 and slugging .581 against Syndergaard’s four-seamer, according to Brooks Baseball. Last year, those numbers were .250 and .250 (in an injury-abbreviated season). The year before, .248 and .386.

Jacob deGrom has spoken after recent starts of a similar tactic, and he’s far from the only one to try throwing fastballs up. With so many hitters tweaking their swings to lift the ball more — launch angle is the buzz phrase — pitchers seem to be throwing higher in an attempt to induce weak contact (or no contact).

Now Syndergaard wants to try it in an effort to be more effective. He hasn’t been bad per se — he has a 3.09 ERA and 1.20 WHIP — but also hasn’t been the dominant Syndergaard that he, his team and his fans have come to expect.

It’s a work in process.

“A guy like Jacob deGrom, who’s getting really spread out, it’s a little easier for him because that’s where he tends to miss, up,” Callaway said. “[Syndergaard is] so steep in his delivery, and being able to throw the ball almost straight downhill, that it would probably be a little more difficult for him than most.”

n Cespedes OK to play

Yoenis Cespedes was back in the Mets’ lineup Monday, a day after exiting with right quadriceps discomfort. Callaway watched him go through a light workout and stretch routine with the athletic training staff about five hours before first pitch at Great American Ball Park.

“He came out of it really well,” Callaway said. “He looked really good doing it.”

Cespedes left midgame with an injury each of the past two Sundays (last week, a thumb issue) but didn’t miss a subsequent game.

n Homecomings

Road trips are business trips, but this week, please excuse Todd Frazier for engaging in a few personal endeavors. Frazier, Cincinnati’s first-round draft pick in 2007, is visiting Great American Ball Park for the first time since he was traded by the Reds to the White Sox before the 2016 season.

The Reds honored him before the series opener with a tribute video.

“A lot of great memories here,” Frazier said. Among them: a walk-off home run in May 2012 and clinching the NL Central at home later that year.

Frazier is sixth on GABP’s home run list with 63. Jay Bruce, the Mets’ other former Reds fan favorite who is back for the second time since being traded, is second with 136.

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