NEW YORK -- Day 1, a significant day in the life of any baseball player rehabilitating from a notable injury, went without any hitches for two of the New York Mets' prized pitchers, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey.
The two played catch briefly from 70 feet away at Citi Field as the first step back in their respective returns to the major leagues. Syndergaard has not pitched since a 23-5 loss to the Washington Nationals on April 30 when he suffered a partial tear in his right lat.
Harvey's last appearance was a four-inning start in which he allowed three home runs against the Chicago Cubs on June 14. He had a stress injury to the scapula bone in his right shoulder.
Neither pitcher would speculate on when he will pitch off a mound, let alone return to the pitch for the Mets. The two are on different rehab programs, but were able to begin them at the same time. Mets manager Terry Collins said they'll continue to build up distance before doing anything else.
"They looked free and easy," Collins said. "They were free and easy. I thought both of them were nice and loose and free. For the first day of throwing, I thought it was a good sign.
"It's nice to see them out there. I don't know when I'll get them back, or if I'll get them back."
Syndergaard, 24, is new to recovering from such a major injury and is still absorbing what the process is like. He expressed excitement in a tweet earlier in the day, but was thoughtful and less emotional when speaking with the media before Monday's game.
Oh ⚾️...will be so nice to hold you, touch you, feel you.....and throw you today. I've missed you.— Noah Syndergaard (@Noahsyndergaard) July 17, 2017
"The first couple of throws felt a little weird," Syndergaard said. "It felt like a pingpong ball in my hands. But it felt great. I wanted to ramps things up out there, that's how good it felt. But I don't need to rush it back."
Harvey has seen enough injury rehabilitation, both from Tommy John surgery and thoracic outlet surgery, to be cautious in any sort of assessments and steps forward.
Harvey lamented not speaking up about his shoulder discomfort sooner.
"It was pretty uncomfortable for a while," Harvey said. "Me wanting to be out there as much as I possibly can and fighting through some uncomfortable times -- it's my fault for doing that. I should have said a lot more earlier. Maybe I would have missed a start or two here and there. But wanting to be out there, I pushed through it and ran into a wall."
He noted that during a trip home to Connecticut to see family, he saw a few of his younger relatives throwing a baseball. Harvey picked one up and heard his dad say, "Don't throw it." That made Monday a positive step.
"I've been feeling good for the last couple of weeks," Harvey said. "I haven't really had any pain since a couple of days after I got the PRP injection [on June 15]. Noah and I let it go pretty good and both of us, talking after, felt great. We'll see how we feel [Tuesday] and get back out there on Wednesday."
The loss of Syndergaard and Harvey, along with injuries to Steven Matz, Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo, has nearly crushed the Mets' hopes of a third straight playoff appearance. Their starters enter Monday with a 4.96 ERA, which ranks 28th in the majors.