Anthony McCarron, SNY.tv | Twitter |
It's that time of year again. No, not the holiday season.
The ballplayer, "I feel great!" season.
Noah Syndergaard said he's "extremely confident" he'll be back to his old self next year after a lat injury marred his 2017 season. But in Syndergaard's case, it's not just a dose of December optimism that makes him talk that way.
The Mets ace has revamped his winter workout routine and that, coupled with his two brief stints on the mound at the end of last season, has him enthusiastic about his comeback.
"I'm still lifting heavy, but in more of a smart way," Syndergaard said Thursday after playing perhaps the largest elf in Christmas history at the Mets holiday party for kids at Citi Field. "Last year was not necessarily the most smart thing that I should be doing, in terms of exercises and choices."
As an example, Syndergaard noted, "Last year, I did a lot of pull-ups and that's primarily a lat exercise. This year, I haven't done one pull-up yet. It's different. It's still taxing workouts, but my body has never felt better."
In addition, Syndergaard said he is "working on flexibility issues I've had probably my entire life that are just now being addressed. And just becoming a more well-rounded athlete."
At a workout on Monday, he said, he trained with a sprint coach from Canada's Olympic team. "Not that I'm trying to become an Olympic sprinter anytime soon, but just working on overall athleticism so I'm not running like a fat guy in flip-flops anymore."
New manager Mickey Callaway and new pitching coach Dave Eiland have already sent the pitchers their winter throwing programs. Syndergaard says he has not started throwing yet, but the program is structured, unlike the "winging it" approach he's taken before.
When the Mets hired Callaway, Syndergaard got a text message from a friend on the Cleveland Indians, pitcher Adam Plutko. Plutko was "extremely jealous," Syndergaard said. "He said Mickey's as good as it gets."
The Mets and Callaway are just getting to know each other, but the four players at the holiday party said they had spoken to the new manager. Syndergaard even met Callaway at a Knicks game. "Seems like an awesome guy," said Syndergaard, who is excited by the idea of having a manager steeped in pitching.
"We've spoken a couple times on the phone," added reliever Jerry Blevins. "The impressions are great - him being a former pitcher, it's nice to relate on a different level with a manager. That'll be my first time having a former pitcher be at the helm. Seems super intelligent and knows the direction we want to head, very assertive."
Brandon Nimmo, who had a .379 on-base percentage and a .797 OPS in 69 games for the Mets last season, felt like his body of work "proved that I can play an everyday position in the Major Leagues," he said. Still, the Mets are among the teams this winter looking for an outfielder who can also play first base and have been linked in media reports to several free agents. Nimmo, a perpetual smiler who not surprisingly was asked to play Santa Claus at the club's holiday party for kids Thursday at Citi Field, knows he can't do anything other than continue to play well to win a gig.
"Whether a position is open here or not, that's what I can't control," he said. "We'll just let things play out. There's a lot that gets talked about in the off-season and some stuff goes through and some stuff doesn't.
"I felt like I did what I needed to do at the end of last year and I'm proud of that, but I understand that this is a business and they go about it that way. Everybody wants to win here, so we're going to try to win and whatever the guys in the front office think are those pieces are that are going to help them win, they're going to go get those. I understand that and I'm all for trying to win."
Promoting former assistant hitting coach Pat Roessler to the head job after Kevin Long left for Washington was "very important," catcher Kevin Plawecki said. "I was really kind of nervous there, selfishly, having a new hitting guy come in." Plawecki added that Roessler knows the various adjustments Plawecki's made to his swing mechanics over the past few years. Presumably, there won't be an adjustment period. "I'm really happy Pat stayed on," Plawecki said. Nimmo echoed his teammate: "He knows what we're trying to accomplish and what we're trying to get better at already," Nimmo said. "Keeping Pat, I think, was a really big deal."
It's no secret the Mets are seeking to add another significant bullpen arm and Blevins is all for it. He even brought up the name of a recent former teammate as a suggestion of sorts. "It's pretty obvious that we have a need back there for another big arm, especially with some of the limits we're going to have on our starting pitching coming through because of injury or lower innings limits," Blevins said. "So we're going to have to pick up a lot of innings. If we can get an Addison Reed-type or somebody, a power arm in the back end, will take a lot of the pressure off (Jeurys) Familia, myself, AJ (Ramos)."… Eiland wants to run a "pitchers camp" in early February before spring training starts in earnest. "I think it's a great idea," Syndergaard said, just because I've never met the guy or worked with him before, so I want to build that chemistry and relationship."