Mar 25, 2020 - Sports

Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard opts for Tommy John surgery

New York Mets baseball players

L to R: Bartolo Colon, Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler in 2015. Photo: Marc Serota/Getty Images

Mets flamethrower Noah Syndergaard (aka "Thor") has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow and will undergo Tommy John surgery tomorrow, effectively shelving him for the next 12–15 months.

Why it matters: Tommy John surgery is hardly a death sentence, but it's no walk in the park, either. Recovery generally lasts more than a year, and the first season back typically comes with pitch- and innings-limits.

  • While it's never good to have one of your best players out of commission for over a year, the Mets lucked out with the timing of this surgery, seeing as how the 2020 season is up in the air.
  • As for Syndergaard, the timing is brutal. While fellow Tommy John victim Chris Sale recently signed a five-year, $145 million extension, Thor will hit free agency for the first time in his career after the 2021 season, likely just a few months after returning to the mound.

How it works: Tommy John was developed by Dr. Frank Jobe in 1974 as a way to reconstruct the UCL by grafting a tendon from elsewhere in the body into the elbow.

  • The doctor makes a 3- to 4-inch incision along the outer elbow and drills holes in the humerus and the ulna so they can thread the tendon into place. Then they secure the graft with sutures or screws before closing up.
  • The whole procedure takes just 60–90 minutes, and chances of a full recovery sit around 90%.
  • Why "Tommy John"? The surgery was first performed on a Dodgers pitcher named Tommy John in September 1974. Most experts believed a comeback would be miraculous, but John returned in 1976 to pitch an unbelievable 14 more seasons, from age 33 to 46, going 164-125 with a 3.66 ERA.

The backdrop: During spring training in 2015, Marc Serota snapped the above photo of the Mets' five young aces: Matt Harvey, Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler (plus Bartolo Colon).

  • Four years later, it's official: All five pitchers from that photo have either undergone elbow reconstruction or, in Thor's case, are scheduled to do so soon.

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