Noah Syndergaard’s torn ulnar collateral ligament and ensuing Tommy John surgery, which erased him from the Mets’ plans for whatever version of the 2020 season that happens, would appear to be a major blow to the rotation and the team’s shot at the playoffs.
Instead of having Syndergaard, a potential ace-caliber righthander in the No. 2 slot, his absence means everyone moves up a slot to fill out the starting five behind Jacob deGrom: Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz, Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha.
That means someone — or someones — need to step up, right?
Matz doesn’t see it that way.
“Nobody needs to step up,” Matz said in an interview with the Mets’ public relations department released by the team. “Everyone just has do what they are capable of. Sure, losing Syndergaard is tough because he’s a great pitcher, but we have guys who have done this before. Everyone on the staff has the feeling that when they go out to the mound they want to dominate.”
Without Syndergaard, the Mets will need more out of Matz, who last season had a 4.21 ERA while reaching the 30-start threshold for the second year in a row. He was much better in the second half of the year (3.52 ERA) than the first half (4.89 ERA) after a brief stint in the bullpen.
To try and stay in shape amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has delayed the start of the season until at least early July, Matz has maintained a version of his offseason routine: playing catch with Mets reliever Brad Brach and throwing bullpen sessions to White Sox catcher James McCann near their Nashville homes.
A normal week for Matz under these circumstances: five long-toss sessions, two side sessions and one phone/video call with first-year pitching coach Jeremy Hefner. He also talks with the Mets’ athletic training staff twice weekly.
“The biggest thing that Hef has told me is keep the same intent,” said Matz, a Stony Brook native and Ward Melville alumnus. “Everything should have a purpose while you’re working out or throwing. Keep up the game speed. Act as though this is what you would be doing if the season was going on.”
If baseball does return this year — MLB and the players’ union have been negotiating the details — it will begin without fans in the stands. Matz said that will be weird but fine.
“Especially in New York, we get energy from the fans,” Matz said. “So it will be a little different. But at the end of the day, we’re all making adjustments and while we’d love to play in front of our fans, we have to do what the medical experts are telling us to do so everybody is safe and healthy.”