NEW YORK (AP) — Noah Syndergaard says the weight has not been lifted from his shoulders, just his lat muscle.
The New York Mets ace tore the latissimus dorsi behind his right arm on April 30 after bulking up during the previous winter. He altered his workouts this offseason under the supervision of Eric Cressey, a performance coach who assisted Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer, and Shane Rye, co-founder of Cressey's company.
"I'm still lifting heavy but in a more smart way," Syndergaard said Thursday, dressed as an elf at the Mets' annual holiday party for children. "Last year was not the necessarily the most smart thing I was supposed to be doing in terms of exercises and choice. ... I did a lot of pull-ups, and that's primarily a lat exercise, and this year I haven't done one pull-up yet. So it's different. It's still taxing workouts, but my body never felt better."
A 25-year-old right-hander, Syndergaard averaged a career-high 99.6 mph with his fastball this year. But the muscle injury limited him to seven starts and 30 1/3 innings. He made just two appearances for the Mets in his return from the injury, throwing five pitches over an inning against Washington on Sept. 23 and 26 pitches over two innings at Philadelphia on the final day of New York's sorry season.
"I'm extremely confident, just the way I finished the season that last start against the Phillies," Syndergaard said. "I don't think I've ever felt that way before, and I feel like my pitches, my repertoire, even increased even more in terms of like velocity and just straight power."
Syndergaard claimed to have added 17 pounds of muscle last offseason, although Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said in May the 2016 All-Star added only 3 pounds. Syndergaard has trained this offseason with a Canadian Olympic track coach.
"Worked with me on my sprint mechanics, not that I'm trying to become an Olympic sprinter anytime soon," Syndergaard said, "but just working on overall athleticism so I'm not running like a fat guy in flip-flops anymore."
Outfielder Brandon Nimmo, left-hander Jerry Blevins and catcher Kevin Plawecki also attended the holiday party.
"Got to channel my inner Will Ferrell with the elf costume," Plawecki said. "Nimmo crushed it with Santa and gave a lot of good ho, ho, hos in there."
Nimmo plans to attend left-hander Steven Matz's wedding this weekend. Nimmo got married on Nov. 10 and Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud the following day. They had an unplanned meeting at a hotel on Maui during their honeymoons.
"I just went to breakfast, and I just saw him walking to the buffet and I was like, 'Travis!' Nimmo recalled. "And we ended up going snorkeling for turtles later that day."
"I just thought that was hilarious," Nimmo said. "We spend all this time with each other and then we all go our separate ways and somehow we end up still seeing each other by happenstance."
New York went 70-92, its poorest record since 2009, and 68-year-old manager Terry Collins was replaced by 42-year-old Mickey Callaway, who had been Cleveland's pitching coach.
"Seems like a good guy, just kind of a good 'ol boy from Memphis. We talked about hunting a little bit," Nimmo said.
With Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Matz and Zack Wheeler coming back from injury-shortened seasons, Blevins said reinforcing the bullpen is a priority.
"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," Blevins said.
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