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    Noah Syndergaard makes final tuneup before rehab assignment
    • July 8, 2023

    LOS ANGELES ― Noah Syndergaard didn’t allow a ball to clear the Dodger Stadium fences. He got a few whiffs and even helped his own cause by coming off the mound to catch a pop fly Friday.

    The “umpire” was Dodgers pitching coach Mark Prior. The backstop was Dodgers bullpen catcher Steve Cilladi. The hitters were Miguel Vargas, Jonny DeLuca and Yonny Hernandez – major leaguers all – and the paid attendance was zero.

    In other words, it was a far cry from an actual major league game. Syndergaard’s three-inning, 50-pitch simulated start was encouraging nonetheless. Manager Dave Roberts said Syndergaard’s fastball touched 93-94 mph – just as he did in his last outing, a June 7 game against the Cincinnati Reds in which Syndergaard allowed six runs in three innings.

    Syndergaard’s next stop: Oklahoma City. How long his minor league rehab assignment lasts with the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate is “all contingent on health and performance,” Roberts said.

    Plenty is riding on Syndergaard’s progress at Triple-A. If he can deliver the results the Dodgers expected when they signed him to a one-year, $13 million contract last December, Syndergaard could plausibly help a rotation that currently consists of three rookies (Michael Grove, Bobby Miller and Emmet Sheehan) and is waiting on future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw to return.

    So far, those results have been elusive. Syndergaard was 1-4 with a 7.16 ERA in 11 starts when he was placed on the 15-day injured list with a finger blister.

    “It’s hard because there are times where his velocity ticked up but the quality of contact against wasn’t good,” Roberts said of Syndergaard’s first 11 starts. “There were other times the velocity wasn’t there, but the secondary pitches were considerably better.”

    If Syndergaard doesn’t improve, his next step is unclear. Internally, the Dodgers were discussing activating him from the injured list and moving him into a bullpen role for Thursday’s game against the Pirates. But relief pitcher Brusdar Graterol’s shoulder responded well enough to pregame throws that he was able to avoid the IL. Syndergaard’s simulated game was rescheduled for Friday.

    Roberts wouldn’t say whether or not the bullpen would be an option for Syndergaard if his stuff isn’t major league-ready at the end of his rehab assignment.

    “We just have to wait and see,” Roberts said. “We see him as a starter. I don’t want Noah’s head to kind of go to a different place until that conversation, when and if it needs to happen.”


    Miguel Vargas’ place in the Dodgers’ lineup has never been shakier.

    The rookie second baseman is 5 for his past 61 entering the two-game series against the Angels. For the sixth time in the last 11 games, Mookie Betts started at second base in Vargas’ place in the series opener.

    “He’s grinding. He’s playing hard. But it’s just not happening,” Roberts said of Vargas. “For him to sit back, take a respite, watch a game, is beneficial.”

    Roberts did not rule out the possibility of Vargas returning to the minor leagues to get back on track, a scenario the team has already discussed internally.

    “I do think the defense is getting better,” Roberts said. “The experience at the major league level is helpful. But it’s also helpful to feel yourself getting some hits and the confidence going. I do think he’s additive. But at what point could it be detrimental? I don’t know.”


    Pitching prospect Landon Knack will remain on the taxi squad through the weekend in case the Dodgers need relief help, Roberts said. … The Dodgers have not announced a starting pitcher for Saturday’s game, reserving the possibility that an opener will pitch the first inning in place of right-hander Michael Grove, who is expected to throw the majority of innings.


    Angels (LHP Reid Detmers, 2-5, 3.72 ERA) at Dodgers (TBD), Saturday, 6:10 p.m., SportsNet LA, Bally Sports West, 570 AM, 830 AM

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    ​ Orange County Register