Legends On Deck

Noah Syndergaard Makes His 2015 Triple-A Debut

It wasn’t the best start of Syndergaard’s minor league career, but it also wasn’t his worst. That line alone makes it sound like Syndergaard had a rough go of it Monday night, and he kind of did.  Michael Baron called the start, “so-so” which is pretty accurate, but there are a few things to keep in mind if you’re a Mets fan–or a fan of pitching prospects.

Toward the end of Spring Training, Syndergaard had a bout of forearm tightness. Of course, this is usually the symptom that fans fear is synonymous with Tommy John surgery. Alas, and fortunately, Syndergaard went in for the dreaded MRI. Everything came back clean. Mets brass, and fans, were able to breathe easy and watch Noah Syndergaard take the mound for the 51’s.

It was a long week-plus coming for Syndergaard’s debut, and of course, it left something to be desired. But, as a pitcher on a strict 60-pitch pitch count coming off forearm tightness, Syndergaard was probably still in a Spring Training, work-on-things, get-stretched-out mindset. And that’s fine, that’s safe, and there was one inning where it all came together.

None of the first three innings was that inning. Syndergaard began the game with a healthy dose of fastballs, all around 95mph, to strike out Darren Ford. He then got Ronny Cedeno to fly out. It took six pitches to dispatch the first two batters. Travis Ishikawa, on the fourth pitch of his at bat, strokes a line drive to CF Kyle Johnson who commits a fielding error.

This is the kind of situation that has generally been known to cause Syndergaard to unravel. Struggling to locate his breaking pitches, Syndergaard begins to feed batters heavy doses of predictable fastballs. This results in a run-scoring single–an unearned run, of course–and Syndergaard retires the next batter on a ground ball.

The important thing to take away from this inning is that Syndergaard tried to use his breaking pitches. He might’ve struggled to locate them, but he also hasn’t pitched much since his injury-scare. It cost Syndergaard 19 of his 60 pitches.

Syndergaard had a much cleaner second inning, giving up just a single over 12 pitches.

But he runs into trouble, big trouble, his second time through the order. Darren Ford and Ronny Cedeno both single to start the inning, and Syndergaard follows it up by walking Ishikawa on five pitches. With the bases loaded, Syndergaard surrendered another single, prompting a visit to the mound.

He induces a one-pitch double play, conceding the second run. Syndergaard escapes the inning by striking out Brandon Hicks.

It’s Syndergaard’s fourth, and final, inning that is impressive. He begins to mix his pitches with his fastball. He gives up another lead-off single, but gets yet another double play. There’s no further damage in this inning and his final line reads: 4IP, 7H, 3R, 2ER, 1BB, 2Ks.

Syndergaard wasn’t blowing anyone away today. He only really had one rough inning, but it was a little concerning seeing his second time through the order not go well. Again, it’s his first start of the year, so he has some leeway. The important takeaways are that the sooner he finds his feel and command of his breaking pitches and understands how to mix them, he’ll be better off. His implosions won’t happen if he doesn’t panic and start throwing fastballs all over the place. Everyone knows he has a great curveball, and he uncorked a few of them against the RiverCats.

In a couple weeks, Frank Viola should have a much more complete pitcher on his hands. Syndergaard shouldn’t strive to just get into the Majors, or even expect to. He should strive to be the best. He wasn’t incredibly wild in his first start of the season.  37 of his 54 pitches went for strikes. Of course, a lot of them were hittable, but he already knows he needs to work on that.

So-so might be a pretty good description of the start. But Syndergaard’s return to the mound, despite being a little rocky, still left his team in line for the win. This start didn’t make any Major League teams suddenly not ask for him in trades. Not even his worst starts last year did that. Noah Syndergaard has enough tools to make a so-so start appear to be a gem in the eyes of GMs across baseball.

He’s a 22 year old pitcher who, with a few more weeks of seasoning, could be forcing his way onto the Mets 25-man roster. Don’t be put off by a so-so start.


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