Noah Syndergaard starts for New York Mets, capping comeback from surgery

NEW YORK -- Noah Syndergaard started Tuesday night for the New York Mets, returning to a major league mound for the first time in two years and completing his delayed comeback from Tommy John surgery.

Syndergaard looked sharp in his brief outing as the Mets beat the Miami Marlins 2-1 in nine innings to complete a doubleheader sweep.

"I felt great," Syndergaard said. "It was amazing to get back out there."

With his long, blond hair blowing in the breeze, the right-hander topped out at 96 mph and struck out his first two batters in a perfect inning, throwing nine of 10 pitches for strikes. That was all for his first time out.

Syndergaard received a couple of warm ovations from a Citi Field crowd of 20,647 dotted with Thor signs.

Back in the dugout, he got hugs and pats on the chest from teammates when his short outing was over.

"Almost had to shed a tear," Syndergaard said about the fan reaction. "I'm not really an emotional guy, but it definitely got to me."

The Mets also announced that ace Jacob deGrom won't pitch again this season. The two-time Cy Young Award winner has been sidelined since mid-July because of an elbow injury that has healed, according to the club.

He has been throwing bullpens recently, including a successful one Monday, with an eye toward a potential return this year. But with the Mets out of playoff contention, deGrom and the club agreed there's no sense in him starting a game even though he's healthy, manager Luis Rojas said.

"Everyone is fully on board," said Rojas, adding that deGrom should have a normal offseason. "It's the right thing."

The right-hander was 7-2 with a sparkling 1.08 ERA and 146 strikeouts against only 11 walks in 92 innings when he got hurt.

"I think coming back in spring training he'll be the Jake that we know," Rojas said.

Syndergaard was reinstated from the 60-day injured list to start the second game of a single-admission doubleheader at Citi Field. The skidding Mets announced the move about 2 1/2 hours before the first game, a 5-2 win started by Marcus Stroman.

Syndergaard, 29, can become a free agent after the season.

"I'm fairly confident that we'll reach an agreement and I'll be pitching here next year," he said. "New York has a special place in my heart."

The Mets must decide how much they want him back and whether to make him a one-year qualifying offer.

"We want to see him pitch," Rojas said. "The organization will benefit from watching him perform."

Syndergaard's return comes too late to help the 2021 Mets, who were eliminated from the postseason chase last weekend. New York (75-82) led the NL East for three months but began to nosedive when the calendar turned to August.

Syndergaard, an All-Star in 2016, expects to make another one-inning appearance before the season ends Sunday. He and the Mets initially targeted a June return, but his rehab progression was slowed by a sore elbow that caused him to be shut down in late May for a while and then a positive test for COVID-19 in late August even though he is vaccinated.

"It was definitely a crazy journey," Syndergaard said. "It felt like everything was working against me."

"It just felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders when I was able to get back out there and compete."

Syndergaard made a pair of rehab appearances last week for Triple-A Syracuse, working one inning each time. He allowed one hit and struck out two over two scoreless innings.

On the advice of doctors, Syndergaard stopped throwing his slider when he resumed rehabbing this summer because they thought that pitch might have caused the elbow discomfort he experienced in the spring.

So on his own, Syndergaard decided to scrap his curveball for now as well. He said he thinks he can be effective -- at least in short stints -- with just his four-seam fastball, two-seamer and changeup.

He certainly was Tuesday night against the last-place Marlins.

"He's excited. He wants to get in there and compete," Rojas said. "It's been a long road. ... He worked really hard to get in this position."

It was Syndergaard's first big league outing since Sept. 29, 2019, against Atlanta. He tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow at spring training in March 2020 and had Tommy John surgery later that month.

Syndergaard served as the Mets' 29th man for the doubleheader. To make room for him on the 40-man roster, catcher Chance Sisco was designated for assignment.

The hardest-throwing starter in the majors since his arrival, Syndergaard came up in 2015 and helped the Mets reach the World Series that year. He began the night 47-30 with a 3.31 ERA in 119 career games (118 starts), all with New York.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.