Mets unsure about timetable for right-hander's return
By Joe Trezza
NEW YORK -- The pitch that sent Noah Syndergaard from the mound on Sunday to surgeon's offices zig-zagging the country to the disabled list will be the last one he throws for at least six weeks.
That's how long it'll be until the Mets' ace touches a baseball again, the first indication of a vague time frame he'll need to recover from a torn right lat. The rest predicates any rehab, meaning any further progress the righty makes hinges entirely on whether he emerges pain-free by mid-June.
At that point, the Mets expect Syndergaard will need considerable more time to build up arm strength before he returns to the mound. Simply put, the organization isn't exactly sure when this season Syndergaard will be healthy enough to pitch again, if he is at all.
And the timetable for Syndergaard's return will extend if he suffers even the slightest setback, given the importance of his right arm to the franchise.
"Obviously, if he's not going to throw for six weeks, there is going to be a period of time after that to ramp him back up," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said. "We can all speculate on how long that will take. But I think, realistically, it's going to take a while."
Alderson said it was his decision to let Syndergaard start on Sunday, days after the righty missed a turn due to biceps pain and then refused an MRI.
"I know my body," Syndergaard said this past week. He walked off the mound at Nationals Park after just one inning, holding his lat, and he was diagnosed with a tear the following day.
Syndergaard then sought a second opinion from acclaimed surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles, a consultation that resulted in "all positive" feedback, according to the team.
"I don't regret [making the start] at all," Syndergaard said Saturday. "I threw a bullpen [session] two days prior and felt great, ready to go. Something weird just happened."
Syndergaard's injury proved to be the latest and most devastating for a team affected by a wrath of maladies in the season's first month. But Alderson reiterated his confidence in his training staff and ace on Saturday, noting that Syndergaard's work ethic is what helped him achieve success, even if it may also have inadvertently put him in harm's way.
"In Noah's case, I think it's unfair to try to separate his motivation in respect to certain things," Alderson said. "It's easy to pick off one thing that may have been excessive, and it may have been excessive. Who knows whether he'd be where he is if he didn't have that kind of personality?"
What the Mets do without that personality is another dilemma. Alderson indicated his willingness to look both inside and outside the organization for answers. The club has resolved to give Rafael Montero, who struggled with command Friday in his first start of the season, another opportunity. Additionally, Steven Matz or Seth Lugo could return from elbow injuries by the end of the month.
Alderson also noted the presence of several veteran pitchers available on the free-agent market. That group, though Alderson didn't mention names, includes Doug Fister, Tim Lincecum and Jake Peavy.
As for Syndergaard, he expects to take his recovery "really slow."
"I can learn from this," Syndergaard said.
Alderson expressed a similar sentiment, acknowledging he'd approach similar situations differently in the future.
"We make these decisions every day. One of them certainly went sideways," Alderson said. "We need to make sure our decision-making process, that ends with me, is as good as it can possibly be."
Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.