In what has been a year of dashed expectations, a season that included an epic collapse in August in which the team squandered a sizable division lead, the Mets got a sliver of joy on Tuesday when Noah Syndergaard, once an ace for the team, was able to make his return to the mound after two years lost to injury.
Syndergaard flashed some of his previous brilliance. He started the second game of a doubleheader against the Miami Marlins, fired 9 of his 10 pitches for strikes, struck out two batters and hit 96 miles an hour on the radar gun. The Mets, playing at home, won both games against the Marlins.
“I felt great,” Syndergaard told reporters after the game. “It was amazing to get back out there.”
Syndergaard’s last appearance had come on Sept. 29, 2019. In the two-year absence he dealt with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow, which required Tommy John surgery, as well as a breakthrough case of Covid-19.
The excitement about the return of the big right-hander who once captivated the crowds at Citi Field, helping the team reach the 2015 World Series and looking like a future superstar in 2016, was offset by the team’s announcement that another star pitcher, Jacob deGrom, would be shut down for the rest of the season to allow him to continue his recovery from an elbow injury.
While deGrom has been throwing bullpen sessions, and the Mets have been enthusiastic about his progress, there was no longer any reason to bring him back this year after the team was eliminated from postseason contention.
“Everyone is fully on board,” Manager Luis Rojas said. “It’s the right thing.”
In a season in which he initially looked as if he could set numerous records, DeGrom ends the year instead with a final line that includes a 7-2 record, a 1.08 earned run average and 146 strikeouts in 92 innings. He made his fourth All-Star team, but the elbow injury took away what looked to be an excellent chance for him to win his third Cy Young Award.
DeGrom, who is signed through 2023 with a club option for 2024, will return to the Mets next season. Syndergaard, who said he expects to pitch at least one more time this season, also hopes he will be back, despite his upcoming free agency.
“I’m fairly confident that we’ll reach an agreement and I’ll be pitching here next year,” Syndergaard said. “New York has a special place in my heart and always will be.”