ATLANTA — After finishing a light 15-pitch bullpen session Saturday, Mets righthander Noah Syndergaard walked off the field at SunTrust Park and indicated that he had no issues.
Because Syndergaard experienced what the team called “general soreness” last week, the Mets appear to be committed to taking things slow with their rehabbing ace. Before their game against the Braves on Saturday, manager Terry Collins said Syndergaard could throw a simulated game before making his first major-league appearance since suffering a torn lat in April.
“Just trying to make sure we do it the right way, without rushing,” Collins said. “There’s no reason to rush. We’re just going to make sure we take baby steps.”
Syndergaard will not pitch against the Braves. The earliest he could return is later this week. The Mets begin a three-game series against the Marlins tomorrow.
On Friday, Collins indicated that Syndergaard’s next step could be pitching in a game and that facing batters isn’t critical because he already had done a minor-league rehab assignment that lasted three innings over two outings.
However, general manager Sandy Alderson remains the ultimate decision-maker regarding Syndergaard. After conferring with coaches on Saturday, the Mets adopted a more cautious stance, one that could include facing batters as a tune-up.
“Any time there’s a hitter in there, there’s always a little bit more effort and concentration,” Collins said.
Syndergaard had been scheduled to throw a 50-pitch simulated game Sunday before soreness forced the Mets to scrap that plan. With the minor-league season concluded, his only opportunity to face hitters will come in simulated environments.
The Mets entered Saturday 26 games out of first place, the furthest they have fallen behind in a race since the 2004 season. But rather than shut down Syndergaard, team officials want him to pitch again before season’s end as a way to enter the offseason with some peace of mind.
Whenever Syndergaard returns, the Mets already have decided it will be in an abbreviated form.
Collins prefers to have Syndergaard start a game, even if he throws only an inning or two as part of a piggyback situation. But the manager said the Mets want to avoid pairing Syndergaard with Jacob deGrom or Matt Harvey so their routines are not affected.
Collins also seems cool to the idea of using Syndergaard in relief, preferring that he approaches his outings with the typical preparation of a starter.
Syndergaard, 25, was expected to anchor a starting rotation that the Mets believed would be the driving force to a third straight postseason appearance. Instead, he was limited to five starts. He posted a 3.29 ERA in 27 1⁄3 innings before leaving his outing against the Nationals on April 30 with a torn lat muscle.
Since then, the Nationals have clinched the NL East title and the Mets have traded away most of their veterans in an attempt to retool in time to compete in 2018.
Without Syndergaard for much of the season, the Mets’ rotation has posted a 5.20 ERA. That puts them on pace to finish with the worst starting ERA in franchise history, eclipsing the infamously woeful inaugural 1962 club.