The horror stories of Tommy Kahnle and Danny Duffy are in the rearview. Jimmy Nelson is still here, though, so Los Angeles Dodgers fans still have to wait for that whole thing to pan out. But it's possible the team could finally be the beneficiary of a pitcher's timetable for return from injury.
With guys like Kahnle, Duffy, Nelson and Corey Knebel, the Dodgers previously tried to strategically get the most out of talented pitchers on the mend from injuries. They'd pay for the rehab by dishing out a two-year deal with a total guarantee that would essentially cover one good year of production. In other cases, they swooped in after a pitcher's rehab to give them a one-year, prove-it deal.
It worked with Knebel, who then signed with the Phillies last year and cratered. It worked with Nelson, but only for 29 innings across three years (so, not really). Duffy never saw the field in 1.5 years. Kahnle's Tommy John recovery hit a few snags and he only pitched 12 innings across two full years (and somehow became one of the most important Dodgers relievers down the stretch in 2022).
But did the Dodgers finally get it right this offseason when they signed Noah Syndergaard to a one-year contract? The veteran right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery in 2020, made just two starts in 2021, and returned in 2022 to appear in 25 games with the Angels and Phillies.
Perfect timing? Syndergaard is out of the woods with his surgery and got a full "rehab season" under his belt last year. An unencumbered campaign in which the right-hander fully adapts to his new capabilities post-TJ? Think we got it this time! Somebody else paid for the bumps in the road!
Dodgers may have gotten timing perfect with Noah Syndergaard
Thor made his Dodgers debut in Spring Training on Tuesday and looked pretty darn good. He tossed two scoreless innings and allowed just one hit. Fourteen of his 22 pitches went for strikes and he fanned two batters.
His trademark velocity wasn't there (and may never return), but the early work he's done with pitching coach Mark Prior seems to be paying off. Syndergaard was dotting the corners and worked himself out of trouble. Don't forget, he struggled down the stretch in 2022 with Philadelphia and couldn't get the job done in his one appearance in the World Series. Any signs of progress should be encouraging for all parties.
The right-hander said this week he's more focused on his mechanics and delivery rather than his velocity. If he can get all of that sorted out before Opening Day, the Dodgers could get the most of the $13 million they paid Syndergaard this offseason.
If he can deliver a solid 30-start campaign, perhaps we can forget about the other wasted millions on bullpen assets that never came to fruition.