SAN DIEGO — This was to be an unveiling, or at least that’s how the Mets and prized young arm Noah Syndergaard first envisioned his first All-Star Game. But like so much in what has been a trying season, one filled with aches and pains and humbling shifts in fortune, that great vision did not materialize.
So instead of flashing his eye-popping fastball and his explosive slider, instead of treating the nation to a glimpse of the 6-6 powerhouse with the flowing blond locks, Syndergaard’s Midsummer Classic will consist of a light game of catch Tuesday in front of Terry Collins and the Mets’ coaching staff.
It will be Syndergaard’s first action of any kind since his sudden — and mostly inexplicable — loss of velocity in his start against the Nationals on Friday night.
“Light toss, nothing too crazy,” said Syndergaard, who insists he is suffering from nothing more than general arm fatigue.
With an average velocity of 98.1 mph, Syndergaard possesses the hardest fastball in baseball, one that often exceeds 100 mph. But Friday night, when he reared back to throw at full strength, the radar gun produced startling figures: 93, 93, 91.
The Mets apparently are satisfied with the fatigue explanation and seem to be in line with Syndergaard’s assertion that an MRI exam would be pointless.
“It didn’t really scare me at all,” said Syndergaard, who has been pitching through a small bone spur, a condition he initially denied to the media. “I knew that there was no pain, so there wasn’t really a lot of fear of what it could be.”
Syndergaard described suddenly feeling as if his arm were attached to a parachute, a sensation he’d never endured during a game. Collins and pitching coach Dan Warthen said they’d never seen anything like it in all their years in baseball.
“I can’t relate to that,” Nationals star Max Scherzer said. “I’ve never experienced that.”
Yet Collins reiterated that the Mets are satisfied that there is nothing more sinister at play with Syndergaard’s arm. “Everything’s fine,” said Collins, who had considered starting Syndergaard in Tuesday night’s All-Star Game.
Syndergaard watched and wondered last season when teammate Jacob deGrom vaulted himself into the national consciousness with a virtuoso performance in the All-Star Game. In his one inning, he needed only 10 pitches to strike out the side, proving he could maintain his dominance even against the best in the world.
Syndergaard relished his chance to do the same. Upon being named to the National League team, he cited deGrom’s sudden star turn. He wasn’t shy about wanting a breakout moment of his own.
“He was disgusting last year in the All-Star Game and I definitely wanted that for myself,” Syndergaard said. “I’ll definitely do whatever’s necessary to get back to the All-Star Game next year.”
In Syndergaard, the Mets have some version of the next step in the evolutionary chain, a pitcher whose right arm is capable of generating pure electricity and the touch of a surgeon with a scalpel.
And without a hint of hyperbole, NL manager Collins has spoken about his obligation to let the rising star pitch before “the world.”
But a showcase is the last thing on the mind of Collins and the Mets. Instead, the mission is simply preservation. The health of Syndergaard’s arm is tied directly to the Mets’ chances of reaching the postseason.
Syndergaard said he might curtail bullpen sessions, though it’s unclear exactly what caused the sudden dip in velocity.
“I gave my arm enough time to really recover and get some rest this offseason, picked up the ball later in the offseason,” he said. “There’s no way of knowing what it can be.”
Syndergaard likely won’t start for the Mets until next Tuesday at the earliest.
“I was really disappointed for him,” Collins said. “Not just for me and for our fan base, but for him. This kid’s legit.”