ATLANTA — There will be plenty of time to figure out who is to blame for the Mets latest injury fiasco, because Noah Syndergaard is going to miss a significant amount of time with a torn lat muscle. The Mets righthander was diagnosed with a “partially torn” right lat muscle after an MRI Monday morning back in New York. The team said there is no timetable for Syndergaard’s return. He was placed on the 10-day disabled list Monday morning.
No, “partial” is not necessarily good news.
The lat muscles are huge muscles located on the lower part of your back and inserts onto the bone so that the arm connects to your shoulder. The muscles extend and adduct and help rotate the shoulder. It is a crucial muscle for pitching, and even a partial tear is significant.
To put into perspective how devastating an injury this is, Steven Matz missed just over two months with a partially torn lat muscle in 2015. He felt the issue during his start July 5 at Dodger Stadium and he did not pitch again until Sept. 6.
And what is so frustrating is that in hindsight Syndergaard’s injury seemed so preventable, or predictable.
Syndergaard had complained of “discomfort” in his “biceps/shoulder” area last week. The righty was scratched from a scheduled start on Thursday with what the team said was “biceps tendinitis.” Though team doctors recommended an MRI, Syndergaard declined. The 24-year-old reasoned that he felt better on the medicine he had been taking, anti-inflammatories, and he did not feel the need to have the exam.
While admitting it was not “standard procedure,” the team did not push him. Sandy Alderson explained, “I can’t tie him up and throw him in a tube either.”
“We asked him how it felt. He felt fine, said he could have pitched on turn last time out then he we took him at face value, but he also threw a pen and felt fine,” the Mets GM said Sunday. “So on the basis of that input as well as his own comments he was good to go.”
The Mets did monitor how Syndergaard felt. They had him throw a bullpen on Friday to test the arm before giving him the start on Sunday.
“The people who were with him throwing a bullpen had no misgivings at all about him making his start,” Alderson said.
It was obvious in the first inning, however, that something was not right.
Syndergaard came out firing 99 and 100 mile-an-hour fastballs, or “overthrowing,” as catcher Rene Rivera said in the first inning. Similar to last season, when Syndergaard was trying to show his elbow was healthy and denying he had a bone spur, he threw hard but got hit even harder.
With one out in the second and facing Bryce Harper, Syndergaard took one of the biggest hits of the Mets season.
He grimaced on the third pitch he threw the Nationals slugger and stumbled off the mound grasping under his right shoulder. He left the field quickly with head trainer Ray Ramirez and was on a train back to New York to finally have an MRI before the game was over.
Monday afternoon, Alderson was expected to further explain what happened with Syndergaard. Why was he allowed to refuse an MRI? Why, with the Mets so publicly adamant about protecting their pitchers, did they not just put him on the DL as a precaution. Was he allowed to talk his way into Sunday’s start?
According to sources who spoke to the pitcher Sunday night, he felt the arm issue was the normal part of getting into the season. Syndergaard didn’t feel the lat issue was related to the arm.
Still, the arm, shoulder, back, elbow are all connected in that unnatural motion of throwing a pitch, and there would have been greater peace of mind if Syndergaard had gone ahead with the MRI.
And he came into this season with the attitude that he wanted to overpower. He claimed to have added 17 pounds of muscle — which the Mets disputed by saying he was three pounds lighter at his spring training weigh in — to add “velo.” The Mets had privately pleaded with him to learn to take his foot off the gas pedal all the time.
Whether he was looking to prove he was healthy or if he was too strong because of extra days’ rest, there was Syndergaard Sunday afternoon with the pedal to the metal. With the Mets history of bad luck injuries, it was almost like watching an accident happen in slow motion.
Syndergaard left the field and who knows when we’ll see him again. That will give everyone plenty of time to figure out who is really to blame while the Mets try to turn around an already rough season without him.