Former New York Mets pitcher and SNY analyst Bob Ojeda joined WOR’s Sports Zone with Pete McCarthy on Monday and weighed in on several topics including Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Zack Wheeler and the pitching staff as a whole.
Syndergaard started Monday’s game for the Mets against the Houston Astros and struck out two over two innings, while dialing his fastball up to 101 mph.
“The adrenaline is flowing and that’s what happens, but you do have to temper it,” Ojeda said. “You have to pull it back a little bit. He’s young, he’s strong, obviously everything feels good. That’s my major concern.
“This guy lost a lot of time last year due to an injury, so that’s a lot very early in camp. But I will tell you this: The hitters are so far behind the pitchers early in camp, so it’s a lot of fun to blow people away.”
If Syndergaard can remain healthy, a lot of people believe he has Cy Young potential. However, Ojeda was reluctant to speak about that possibility so early on in the year.
“I don’t like to hang labels on people. I don’t like to do that,” he said. “I know it’s part of the game, I know it’s part of the fun of being a writer or being on the air […] but that’s not me.
“The season is too long and unpredictable and health issues always jump up. He’s an incredibly talented young man, but he’s gotta learn how to pitch and I haven’t seen him pitch yet. I’ve seen him overpower people, exactly like he did today.”
Ojeda went on to reiterate that hitters are going to adjust as the season progresses and that Syndergaard needs to locate his pitches.
Delving deeper into the pitching staff as a whole, Ojeda said he sees people having labeled the staff as one of the best in baseball, but won’t believe it until they go out and prove it.
“I’m a realist. […] The pitching staff hasn’t done much besides get people excited for what they might do,” he said. “I see a lot of predictions, I see a lot of what may happen. These guys gotta go and put it up for a year or two or three.”
However, he did acknowledged that Jacob deGrom is the true ace of the Mets staff and that the reason being is that he has gone out there the last couple seasons and proved he can be that pitcher for them.
“DeGrom has been amazing,” he said. “He’s gone out, he’s done his thing, he’s taken his lumps and he’s learned to pitch. I think he has a lot of great days in front of him. DeGrom keeps doing it year after year, no gimmicks. [He] pumps out wins and great games and rides highs and lows and gets smarter.”
Zack Wheeler is currently battling for a spot in the starting rotation, but Ojeda believes he could thrive as a long man in the bullpen that could give the team three or four innings should they need it.
In Ojeda’s opinion, Wheeler would succeed in that role, but not as someone who is run out there day in and day out.
“His track record is, he’s fragile. That’s not a knock, but a reality,” he said. “In a swing role, it gives you a lot of flexibility. But I don’t think a straight up bullpen guy everyday or every other day is going to fly for that body.”
To listen to the full interview with Ojeda, check it out here!