PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — After missing most of last season with a partially torn right lat muscle, Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard said he feels both strong and more flexible this year.
Syndergaard, 25, is eager to get the 2018 season started after pitching only 30-1/3 innings over seven starts last season.
The 6-6 righthander was one of a handful of major-leaguers among the two dozen Mets players participating in workouts in 75-degree sunshine Wednesday morning at First Data Field, the Mets’ spring training facility.
Told that fellow starting pitcher Jacob DeGrom had cut his long hair this offseason, Syndergaard said he has no plans to cut his anytime soon.
Nicknamed “Thor” after the hammer-wielding Norse god of thunder and lightning, Syndergaard revealed that he has another mythical hero.
“It would be like Samson,” Syndergaard said about cutting his long hair. “I’d lose my power.”
The Mets’ opening day starter last season was 1-1 with a 1.73 ERA after four starts, striking out 30 with zero walks and 23 hits in 26 innings.
In the last of those four starts, however, a loss at home against Philadelphia on April 20, Syndergaard threw 114 pitches in a 10-strikeout performance over seven innings.
That was tied for the fourth most pitches he has thrown in a major-league game, and easily the most in any April start.
Syndergaard’s season fell apart in his next start, when the shoulder injury forced him from the April 30 game in the second inning after the Nationals batted around to score five runs in the first inning.
The native of Mansfield, Texas, did not return to the major leagues until Sept. 23 with a one-inning, five-pitch start.
Before his next and final start, on Oct. 1 at Philadelphia, Syndergaard said he “made a little mechanical adjustment that made a world of difference.”
“It was an unbelievable feeling, and I felt even better than I did before,” he said.
Syndergaard said those late-season appearances helped him get through the offseason with more peace of mind.
He said he worked this winter on strengthening his core and increasing his flexibility, especially in his back, and improving free-range motion in his shoulder.
The result, he said, is he feels both stronger and more balanced muscularly.
Syndergaard said he does not yet know well the Mets’ new manager, Mickey Callaway, who spent the past five seasons as pitching coach for the Cleveland Indians, but has heard from friends with the Indians that Callaway “is an amazing guy with lots of energy.”
He is curious to see whether Callaway, a former pitcher, will have a different approach to handling the Mets’ staff.
Throughout his eight-year professional career since signing with Toronto at age 17, no team Syndergaard has played on through nine levels was managed by a former pitcher.
Dave Eiland, the Mets’ new pitching coach, said he is looking forward to getting to know Syndergaard, and has been impressed with him when he has seen him from opposing dugouts.
Syndergaard also said he thinks the Mets “made some great acquisitions” in adding Todd Frazier, Adrian Gonzalez and Anthony Swarzak, along with bringing back Jay Bruce.
He said they will improve the team, especially on defense, so “they’ll be able to hold their own.”