BOSTON — With the Mets’ playoff chances all but dead, fans may be wondering why the team continues to ramp up its injured star pitchers.
Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom are still plugging through their respective rehab journeys, with the former a bit closer and likelier to return to the Mets before the season is over. After Tuesday, the club has just 11 games remaining before the offseason starts for the Mets. Barring any wild collapses by the Braves and Phillies in the final week of games, the Mets are destined to miss the playoffs for the fifth straight year.
And still, Syndergaard will begin another rehab assignment on Wednesday for Triple-A Syracuse. The right-hander is expected to make at least two rehab outings before the club clears him to come off the injured list and join the active roster for the first time since 2019.
Mets manager Luis Rojas explained that the team wants to see Syndergaard and deGrom continuing to ramp up so the pitchers can help them in the pennant race. What the ever-optimistic Rojas didn’t say is that the Mets want to see what Syndergaard — at least — will perform like in the big leagues 18 months removed from Tommy John surgery, and before he hits free agency.
“It’s important to see the guys healthy and what they could be,” Rojas said. “We’re still working our way to closing the gap for the spot for going to the playoffs, which is our main goal. And those two will come in handy if they’re at their best going through their progression.
“It’ll be really good that they meet us when it works, if we close the gap, which is what we’re working on tonight.”
DeGrom threw a full side session from the rubber on Tuesday at Fenway Park and “felt really good,” Rojas said. DeGrom threw around 20 pitches, and he is expected to throw another bullpen before the club decides his next step. DeGrom told reporters if all goes well, he should pitch again this season.
Syndergaard, who will go on his third rehab assignment of the year on Wednesday, experienced a bumpy road back from the Tommy John surgery he underwent in March 2020. He had a major setback in late May that his doctors said was caused by the torque he applies when throwing some of his pitches, namely his breaking balls. When he got back on the mound in August for a shot at his second rehab assignment, he was instructed to ditch his slider and curveball for the remainder of the year.
Then Syndergaard tested positive for COVID-19 on his 29th birthday. He was forced to shut down his ramp up while recovering in isolation for 10 days. His rehab assignment on Wednesday is his third attempt at rejoining the Mets — though, likely from the bullpen — before he becomes a free agent.
Syndergaard’s limited arsenal (he’ll be sticking to just his fastball and change-up this year) makes him a candidate for the bullpen. He doesn’t need to wait the usual five days to pitch after his rehab outing on Wednesday; the Mets expect him to go two to three days between outings. It’s possible Syndergaard could come off the IL by the Mets’ next, and final, homestand.