Angels’ Noah Syndergaard beats painless batting practice


Throwing live batting practice is a routine part of novice spring practice, a transitional step between bullpen practice and appearing in exhibition games.

Noah Syndergaard’s live batting practice Thursday was anything but routine, and not just because reigning American League MVP Shohei Ohtani was among the batsmen facing the Angels’ new right-hander and about a dozen front-officers – To observe executives at hand.

Syndergaard, the former New York Mets star who signed a one-year, $21 million contract in November, threw his curveball off a hill for the first time in two years. His fastball, which averaged 97.8 mph before his surgery on Tommy John in March 2020, appeared to have his usual zip. He also threw his slider and changeup.

“I flew pretty high,” Syndergaard said Friday at his first meeting with reporters this spring. “Granted it was just a live BP but it’s the best I’ve felt in a long time. I felt really crisp.”

The Angels’ chances of winning the AL West would increase dramatically if the 6-foot-6, 242-pound Syndergaard could regain the form that made him one of baseball’s most dominant starters from 2015-18 when he with a 37-22 went 2.93 ERA in 87 games, 573 outs and 116 walks in 518 1/3 innings.

“Just intimidation,” said Archie Bradley, the new Angels enthusiast, when asked what a healthy Syndergaard could add to the team. “That’s the biggest thing. When you have a guy like that with his size and presence and he throws that hard… I know you see fastballs every day, but a guy like him is intimidating.

Syndergaard, 29, on Thursday felt he had taken a step in that direction, not just because of how he felt physically on the hill, but how he felt mentally.

Syndergaard suffered several setbacks in his recovery last season, postponing his return from June to late September. He threw only fastballs in his two one-inning appearances in the last week of the season. Thursday was the first time he felt like old Syndergaard since the operation.

“It was a huge relief because last year I was still tinkering in those two innings, I wasn’t comfortable with my mechanics and [Thursday] I felt really repeatable,” said Syndergaard. “I didn’t have to think much at all, and that’s the ultimate goal for me when throwing at batsmen to compete and not focus on … finding my delivery.

“When [catcher Max] Stassi calls for “Fastball away”, it focuses on “Fastball away” and not “OK, how’s my hip?”. That will take away the ability to do that [have conviction] on a pitch.”

Syndergaard, who threw a career-high 197 2/3 innings in his last full season in 2019, isn’t sure the Angels will impose any restrictions on him, but more days off will be built into his schedule if he goes from a Five-man rotation to a six-man rotation to accommodate Ohtani.

“You get an extra day off and I think that’s really important for me after the Tommy John surgery,” Syndergaard said. “I think it will give my body enough time to recover and prepare for another start.

“I know there might be some limitations after the surgery and that I haven’t been able to pitch for the last two years, but there’s also an advantage because I haven’t pitched for two years, so my arm is pretty fresh.”

That’s his take on the game. Syndergaard said in November he was looking forward to a “fresh start” after spending seven years in Queens, not because he didn’t enjoy his time there or wouldn’t thrive from the pressures of playing in New York City, but because he has one Career need reset.

“It’s been a great eight years in this organization but playing in New York isn’t the easiest,” said Syndergaard. “I feel like I embraced it and was able to adapt to that kind of environment. But after two years without pitching and probably the most important year of my career, I just had to take a lot of stress off my shoulders.”

Short jumps

Michael Lorenzen looked sharp in his exhibition debut, throwing two innings without a hit and hitting two in Friday’s 10-8 loss to Oakland at Hohokam Stadium. He threw 22 pitches. Jo Adell hit a two-run homer down left center in the first inning and Chad Wallach hit a solo shot down left center in the fifth. The teams combined for 27 hits, 21 strikeouts, 10 walks and two fly balls lost in the sun. … Ohtani, Mike Trout, Jared Walsh, Justin Upton and David Fletcher will be in the lineup for Saturday’s game against Arizona at Tempe Diablo Stadium. … Ohtani will make his pitching debut in the Cactus League against Kansas City at Tempe on Monday. … Left-hander Packy Naughton has been picked on the job to clear a 40-man squad spot for Bradley. … Damon Mashore was promoted from minor league hitting coach to big league outfield and base running coach. Angels’ Noah Syndergaard beats painless batting practice

Andrew Schnitker

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