The fun didn’t last long next to the amusement park on Coney Island. But Noah Syndergaard sure enjoyed his limited time.
Syndergaard began another minor-league rehab assignment Thursday night at Maimonides Park in order to return to the Mets in September, likely as a reliever, according to acting general manager Zack Scott. The plan was for Syndergaard to go one inning for the Cyclones, but he had a 20-pitch max no matter what. So this was going to be quick.
When he walked off the mound, he indeed had lasted the full inning, throwing 16 pitches, including 12 for strikes, against the Aberdeen IronBirds. Syndergaard allowed one run on one hit (a leadoff homer), hit a batter and fanned another, and didn’t complain about any pain in the right elbow that underwent Tommy John surgery.
It was a start, in more ways than one.
"It’s definitely a sigh of relief and a step in the right direction," Syndergaard said to a group of reporters via Zoom. "I think we’re going to evaluate how I feel [FRIDAY]and go from there."
Syndergaard will turn 29 on Sunday. He’s also due to becoe a free agent after the season. But during this first interview about his injury and rehab since he got hurt in 2020, he indicated that he hopes to stay.
"I really haven’t focused on free agency or where I’ll be next year," Syndergaard said. "I can’t imagine leaving New York or leaving the Mets.
"I love the culture that New York has to offer, the grit and tenacity and the hard work of all its citizens and fans . . . And 2015, that special run [to the World Series], that’ll be forever ingrained in me. It was the best time in my life, and I really want to get back to that moment."
His last attempt to get back to the Mets ended after two rehab starts in May. He had a setback, experiencing inflammation that caused a shutdown.
His operation had come on March 26, 2020. He hasn’t pitched in a regular-season game with the Mets for nearly two years, since he started and went seven against Atlanta at Citi Field on Sept. 29, 2019.
"I had surgery right around the same time the pandemic was affecting the United States," Syndergaard said. "It allowed me to just focus on my recovery for the last 17 months. I didn’t really have any . . . urge to go out and do anything because there wasn’t really much to do.
"But I’m just very thankful that I was able to come out tonight healthy, and I felt really good."
Syndergaard was pleased with his velocity. His four-seam fastball sat around 94-96 mph. He has been advised by doctors not to throw sliders the rest of the season and also has decided not to throw curves, and the lack of breaking balls will reduce the stress on the elbow. He said he will get by with four-seamers, two-seamers and changeups.
A return as a reliever will require less time on the rehab circuit.
"I don’t really care what role I’m in," Syndergaard said. "I just want to play in the big leagues again."
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