NEW YORK — Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey began their throwing programs Monday, playing catch together at Citi Field in their first steps toward returning to the mound for the New York Mets.
Whether either one gets back in time to make a difference this season, well, that remains to be seen.
On the mend from significant injuries, both right-handers said they felt good — but neither would put a timetable on his recovery. Harvey hasn’t been sidelined as long as Syndergaard, but both are at least several weeks away from coming off the disabled list.
“We’ll try and get back as quick as we can,” Harvey said.
Syndergaard, an All-Star last season, has been out since May 1 with a torn lat muscle on his right side. Harvey, the oft-injured former ace who has faded the past two years, went down in mid-June with a stress injury to his right shoulder.
The two have combined for all of five wins (four by Harvey) and 18 starts this year, a major reason the disappointing Mets were 41-48 and 9 1/2 games out of a playoff spot going into Monday night’s series opener against St. Louis. With the July 31 trade deadline fast approaching, general manager Sandy Alderson must soon decide whether to deal away several veterans eligible for free agency this fall, including Jay Bruce, Lucas Duda, Curtis Granderson and Addison Reed.
“This is a big homestand,” manager Terry Collins said. “We’ve created where we are, and unfortunately it’s a stage where these games are very, very important to us.”
Collins chuckled when asked how much he’d like to fast forward to seeing both pitchers back in uniform.
“I’d like to really fast forward it, but I know there’s a lot of stages they’re going to have to get through before they get back on the mound here,” he said. “Look, I don’t have them. Certainly, it’s nice to see them out there. But I don’t know when I’ll get them back, or if I’ll get them back.”
“Right now it’s just a matter of patience and waiting and watching,” he added.
Syndergaard and Harvey threw to each other from about 65-70 feet away on flat ground. They’ll be on different routines going forward, but both sounded optimistic and confident about returning with some time left in the season.
“Day One. They looked free and easy,” Collins said. “That was a good sign.”
Syndergaard said his first couple of throws Monday felt weird, as if he was holding a pingpong ball, but after that he felt great. He said his body has never felt better and he’s been pain-free for about a month.
“I’m itching to get back out there. I’m ready to roll,” Syndergaard said. “From what it felt like today, I feel like I could get on the mound tomorrow, but I know it’s definitely not the smartest thing to do.”
In the wake of his injury, there was a lot of talk about whether Syndergaard’s heavy workout regimen and desire to build up muscle might have been the cause. But he said he doesn’t believe that was the case, and he wants to continue to try to throw even harder than he already does because he never wants to get “complacent.”
Harvey said he started to feel better soon after receiving a platelet-rich plasma injection. He said his physical therapy has focused on strengthening the back of his right shoulder and scapula.
Harvey started the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field but missed the following year while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He pitched well in helping the Mets reach the 2015 World Series, but his ineffective 2016 season was cut short by surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome.
He acknowledged perhaps he should have spoken up sooner when he was hurting earlier this year.
“It’s nice throwing today with no pain and that’s definitely helping the mental side of things,” he said. “It was pretty uncomfortable for a while.”