The Dodgers one-year deal with Noah Syndergaard is a bust, that much is clear, with the right-hander unable to capture his old form nor even his serviceable reduced for of 2022 with Los Angeles. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out what’s next for Syndergaard, but it doesn’t sound like he’ll start for the Dodgers in the next week or so.
Syndergaard allowed three home runs and five runs in his five innings on Wednesday against the Nationals. He left trailing but got a no-decision. Washington hit two more home runs and hung five runs on the Dodgers bullpen, too. But after the game, manager Dave Roberts was noncommittal when asked what’s next for Syndergaard.
“As an organization, we’ve got to continue to figure out which guys give us the best chance to win on a particular day as far as starters,” Roberts said. “I don’t know right now the plan as far as Noah, when he’s going to start next. … But we’ve got to figure out some stability and dependability as far as what we’re going to get. We’re still trying to figure that out. Unfortunately.”
Four starting pitchers are currently on the injured list, though Michael Grove will be activated to start for the Dodgers on Saturday against the Yankees after missing nearly six weeks with a right groin strain. He takes the rotation slot of Gavin Stone, who was optioned Tuesday after getting hit around in his first three major league starts. Julio Urías is working his way back from a hamstring injury, and isn’t expected to be ready until next weekend when the Dodgers are in Philadelphia, at the earliest.
They still need three pitchers to start in Cincinnati, too. But off days both Thursday and Monday, surrounding the Yankees series, gives the Dodgers some leeway to put Syndergaard on the shelf temporarily.
Clayton Kershaw, Grove, and Bobby Miller will start against the Yankees. Tony Gonsolin is next in line to start the opener against the Reds on Tuesday. Syndergaard’s spot would normally come next, but given Monday’s off day the Dodgers could turn to Kershaw and Grove on four days rest to finish out the series if they want.
The Dodgers skipped Syndergaard once before this season, using Stone’s debut on May 3 to give the rotation extra rest, and an off day to reorder the rotation for two straight weekend series against the Padres. In between, a blister on Syndergaard’s right index finger burst open on May 9 in Milwaukee, forcing him to leave his start after one inning.
Syndergaard has been able to pitch with a skin adhesive covering the blister, but the results have been bad, allowing 16 runs in 20 innings in the four starts since.
On the season, Syndergaard has a 6.54 ERA in 11 starts. Among the 90 major league pitchers with at least 50 innings this season, he ranks 85th in ERA and 84th with a 15.3-percent strikeout rate. Syndergaard struck out only two batters on Wednesday, the fifth time in 10 non-interrupted starts he’s fanned two or fewer.
Though he got a no-decision against the Nationals, Syndergaard was at a loss for words about his performance. From Juan Toribio at MLB.com:
“Trying to make big adjustments in between starts isn’t the easiest,” Syndergaard said. “I would give my hypothetical first-born to be the old me again. I’ll do anything possible to get back to that. I’m expected to go out there and compete, and today I just fell behind a lot of hitters.”
Syndergaard was also sullen after his previous start, after allowing six runs in six innings in a loss to the Rays.
“There’s not a lot of positive emotion right now when I think about pitching in particular. It’s hard going out there with the weapons I used to kind of being taken away from you,” he told reporters last Friday at Tropicana Field, per SportsNet LA. “The one’s I’m possessing right now aren’t really enough to battle a team like that.”
That’s a far cry from the confidence Syndergaard showed in December, after signing a one-year, $13-million contract with the Dodgers. After spending time during the offseason at Driveline and Tread Athletics, the right-hander was confident he’d return to his old form, prior to Tommy John surgery that wiped out nearly all of his 2020 and 2021 seasons.
“Whatever I was doing last year was not the best version of me,” Syndergaard said during his introductory press conference over Zoom. “Really, I see no excuse as to why I can’t get back to 100 mph, and even farther than that. That just doesn’t make any sense.”
Syndergaard’s two-seam fastball, which he throws 31 percent of the time — the pitch he throws the most — is averaging 92.1 mph this year, down a mile and a half per hour over even the reduced version of the right-hander last year.
“I feel like everything they touch turns to gold,” Syndergaard said of the Dodgers’ pitching coaching and development staff back in December.
Not everything, it seems.