The Los Angeles Angels and Houston Astros will get together for the third time in their season-opening series on Saturday night in Anaheim, Calif., featuring pitchers who have more in common than they’d like to admit.
Besides being big, hard-throwing right-handers, the Angels’ Noah Syndergaard and the Astros’ Justin Verlander are figuring out how to pitch again following Tommy John surgery.
The Astros won the first two games of the four-game series.
The 6-foot-6 Syndergaard, who signed a one-year, $21 million contract with Los Angeles after six seasons with the New York Mets, missed all of the 2020 season. He made two starts at the end of last season, each appearance lasting just one inning each.
It wasn’t much, but it was more mound time than Verlander, who missed the entire 2021 season following surgery in 2020. Verlander hasn’t pitched in a major-league game since July 24, 2020.
Syndergaard made his final spring training appearance last Sunday against the Dodgers, allowing one run in five innings, and declared himself ready to go even though his average fastball velocity was just under 95 mph, a drop from his pre-surgery days, when it reached the upper 90s.
“I think as I get more comfortable with my delivery, get more into game speed and get that adrenaline, we’ll see that velocity tick up,” Syndergaard said. “But as far as free and easy delivery, (Sunday’s game against the Dodgers) was probably the best I’ve felt since 2019.”
Syndergaard went 10-8 with a 4.28 ERA in a career-high 32 starts in 2019, striking out 202 in 197 2/3 innings. His best season came in 2016, when he was 14-9 with a 2.60 ERA and a career-best 218 strikeouts in 183 2/3 innings.
Despite the severity of Tommy John surgery, Angels manager Joe Maddon said there won’t be any specific restrictions placed on Syndergaard when he takes the mound.
“There’s no plan,” Maddon said. “It’s no different than last year with Shohei (Ohtani, who was coming off Tommy John surgery). … He’s real sharp.
“I think he knows how to combine life and work, which is a good thing. And he’s excited to be here, which I love. Beyond that, the plan is there is no plan, just like with Shohei. He’s eager to get out there and doesn’t want any restrictions, either.”
He has never faced the Astros.
Like Syndergaard, Verlander signed a one-year contract for 2022, his worth $25 million. He also said he feels ready to pitch from a health standpoint after an uneventful spring training.
“I was able to get through it healthy,” said Verlander, whose fastball was clocked in the mid-90s in his final spring start. “There’s still some stuff to work on. I’m looking at it two different ways, but definitely pleased with the health part.”
The 6-foot-5 Verlander had one of the best seasons of his career in 2019, winning his second Cy Young Award after going 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA and a career-best 300 strikeouts.
Verlander is 15-10 with a 3.23 ERA in 29 career starts against the Angels.
–Field Level Media