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NEW YORK -- When the comedian had finished his set and the renditions of traditional Italian songs had been sung and yoga class in the outfield was over and the stickball game was complete, Noah Syndergaard strode out to the mound at MCU Field on the water's edge in Coney Island.

Just over 20 miles away from Citi Field, in most years it might seem like a million miles away, the long path from this Class A Short Season league to the major leagues. But with the way things having been going in Flushing since Syndergaard went on the disabled list in May, the circus-like, minor league atmosphere was a fine setting for him to start his return to the big league club.

When, with the stands filled, he walked the first Staten Island Yankee hitter on four pitches, then threw two more balls to start off the next hitter and surrendered a stolen base, too, he really seemed to fit in. But eventually, Syndergaard got on track, adjusting to the mound, getting a feel for pitching with a roller coaster sliding behind him just beyond the outfield fence, and navigated his way through five innings of two-hit, seven-strikeout ball.

The right index finger strain that has kept him out of action since a May 25 start and prompted a schedule change as he was pushed back from a scheduled start against the Yankees a week ago presented no problems as he steadily sat at 98 miles per hour with his fastball Sunday, touching a top speed of 99. He took a no-decision out of the five-inning workout before the Brooklyn Cyclones managed a 2-1 win over the Yankees farm team.

The real circus that awaits Syndergaard likely won't subside for a while though while he waits out the July 31 trade deadline. Since the Mets lost in his last start to fall to 25-22, they have lost 28 of 38 games and seen the general manager, Sandy Alderson, take a leave of absence to fight another bout of cancer and he admitted, likely gone for good with his performance not meriting a return.

And mostly, Syndergaard's name has been spoken as trade bait, along with Jacob deGrom, the two crown jewels of the Mets' rotation, the players who could return the sort of package that could speed a rebuilding process along.

Syndergaard insisted he isn't concerned.

"Not really, no. I've kind of unplugged recently," he said afterward in a crowded interview room just outside the minor league clubhouse. "I don't really think much of it because I have zero control over it. I'm not going to waste much energy on something that can or may not happen."

The Mets trio of front office executives tasked with handling the role of decision maker -- or at least tasked with bringing a decision to Mets' C.O.O. Jeff Wilpon -- certainly would like to hold onto the aces of the staff and maybe they are most likely going to get through the deadline that way. The team wasn't thinking rebuild when the season began and certainly not when the team raced out to an 11-1 start.

But it has all fallen apart and the one disclaimer to the struggles is that the Mets have been damaged badly by injuries, losing Syndergaard for more than a month, Yoenis Cespedes since May 13 and an assortment of other pieces. The Mets can still play the what-if game, contending that if Cespedes was healthy, if Jay Bruce performed as expected, if Michael Conforto lived up to his prior level of play, if the bullpen could get anyone out, they are really not that far away.

That's a bit of wishful thinking though as the aging roster has lived in this state of injuries and underachieving since 2015, already costing the last manager his job and now the GM, too. Some of the players the Mets would like to move are almost untradeable. Syndergaard, even with the injury problems of the last two season, would create a trade market frenzy -- maybe not as much as deGrom, but certainly bringing the sort of return that could replenish the farm system while landing an everyday player.

Syndergaard isn't there yet though.

"I'm just going to take it day by day, go the ballpark, remain positive," he said. "That's still the main theme of the clubhouse now, still a lot of positivity, good energy coming from all the guys. So it's still a lot of fun to come to the ballpark."

Forgive him, he hasn't been on the mound for the Mets in a while. The amusement park here in Brooklyn, the comedian and the singing seemed a lot more festive than Citi Field lately.

Sports on 07/10/2018

Print Headline: Syndergaard focused on health, not trade

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