PORT ST. LUCIE — The results were fantastic for Noah Syndergaard on Wednesday against the Astros at Clover Park.
It was the work earlier in the week, though, that made all the difference.
Syndergaard went to the 10-pack pitching mounds several days to work on his balance with pitching coaches Jeremy Hefner and Jeremy Accardo.
In these drills, observed by The Post, Syndergaard did not throw a pitch. The session was balance oriented.
“I’m trying to lead with my hips to get some leverage and momentum down the mound,” Syndergaard told The Post of the drills. “There are different ways to attack it.’’
At one point Syndergaard sat on the turf to stretch out his right hip to get even more flexibility for the drill. This is the kind of work that pays off in the spring. A pitcher makes an adjustment, has good results with those adjustments and that carries him through for even more success.
Syndergaard is attempting to become less mechanical in his delivery and, in his own words, just let it rip.
When you lead with your hips like that, there is less stress on your arm. You are using your lower half, and when you are a sculpted 6-foot-6, 240 pounds, there is a lot of lower half to use. The results were extremely impressive.
Think back to last spring.
After nearly every outing Syndergaard said he could not get comfortable on the mound. Wednesday, he was comfortable.
Yes, this is only one small sample size, but it is encouraging because Syndergaard’s fastball was humming at 98-99 mph at times Wednesday and his slider had ferocious bite. Syndergaard needed only 18 pitches (14 strikes) for the two innings to get through the cheatin’ Astros, who were booed heavily in those first two innings by Mets fans the moment leadoff hitter George Springer stepped into the box.
No balls were hit hard and Syndergaard struck out two batters on sliders. Wilson Ramos caught him without any issues.
Ramos is making more of an effort to get down with his knee to catch Syndergaard’s slider. After one of Syndergaard’s vicious sliders, a scout behind the plate noted, “If Syndergaard keeps throwing sliders like that, Ramos will be one hell of a catcher.’’
Syndergaard was throwing some 90-mph sliders. He wants to get that up to 92-93 mph and even mentioned how in 2016 he threw sliders against the Royals that were 95-96.
That’s not really fair. But that is the kind of talent Syndergaard possesses.
Last season he was 10-8 with a 4.28 ERA as he surrendered 94 earned runs. In 2016 his ERA was 2.60. That’s what Syndergaard is trying to get back to, and he worked so hard this offseason, moving out to Los Angeles.
“I felt I was back to a competing mentality as opposed to thinking what parts of my body are doing what on the mound,’’ Syndergaard explained of being in sync on the mound. “It was definitely a step in the right direction. I did like the slider today, it was close to the velocity I wanted. Some, I didn’t throw with complete conviction and intent.’’
As for working with Ramos, Syndergaard said, “He’s receiving the ball great, I am definitely pleased with it.’’
Noted manager Luis Rojas after the 4-2 loss, “Really good slider. Noah also did a good job holding the ball, and disrupting the timing of the Astros’ running game. It was a good outing for him. Ramos is doing a really good job with all our pitchers. Their relationship is in a good place right now.’’
Rojas also talked process and that is a big thing with him.
One of the reasons the manager has had live BP sessions is so the pitchers could get immediate feedback from the hitters and not just TrackMan information. There is a human element and the Mets hitters told Syndergaard how vicious his slider was performing and how well it contrasted with his fastball.
“I’m glad he is taking it from the live BPs to the games,’’ Rojas said. “I think he took it into the game because he heard it from his teammates. We talk about communication here and that is part of the communication we do with each other. He was repeating his delivery.’’
Leading with his hips makes a difference for Syndergaard.