Entering this season, the plan was for 51s right-hander Noah Syndergaard to follow the same path to the majors as hard-throwing Mets pitchers Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler — who were called up from Triple A in July 2012 and June 2013, respectively.
However, two injuries have suddenly knocked Syndergaard — New York’s No. 1 prospect — off the fast track to the big leagues.
Making his first start for Las Vegas since he was placed on the disabled list May 26 with a right forearm strain, Syndergaard injured his left shoulder during a play at the plate in the first inning Thursday night at Cashman Field.
With runners on second and third, Syndergaard — who allowed three runs on three hits in two-thirds of an inning of the 51s’ 9-4 loss to Fresno — threw a wild pitch, allowing Mark Minicozzi to score on a close play.
As Minicozzi was coming home, Syndergaard covered the plate, crouching down to take the throw from catcher Taylor Teagarden. After landing on his left knee as he applied the tag, the 6-foot-6-inch Syndergaard took a tumble, landing awkwardly on his left shoulder.
After getting up slowly, Syndergaard appeared to be experiencing discomfort as he threw two warmup pitches before he was removed from the game. The 21-year-old was then taken to a hospital, and results of X-rays were pending.
After the game, 51s manager Wally Backman questioned Syndergaard’s decision-making on the play.
“He was fighting to save a run, but you don’t want your pitchers diving into home plate like that, because stuff like that can happen,” he said.
Syndergaard, 5-3 with a 4.47 ERA in 11 starts in his first Triple-A season, had pronounced himself 100 percent Tuesday as he prepared for his start.
After he experienced some soreness in his elbow, the Mets summoned him to New York on May 27 for a precautionary MRI that came back clean.
“My arm feels great,” Syndergaard said Tuesday. “There was just a little bit of elbow pain, very minor, going on a couple weeks ago. But with a lot of elbow injuries happening in professional baseball, they hear about elbow pain and kind of freak out a little bit.
“They just wanted to make sure.”
Even before Thursday’s setback, Syndergaard didn’t expect to be called up anytime soon.
“I feel like the injury kind of set me back a little bit,” he said. “I try not to worry about that stuff too much. When I’m ready, I’ll be ready, and that’s when they’ll call me up.
“Right now, I have to work on a few more things to get up there, just being more consistent. Last year, I had good command of all my pitches. Right now, I feel a little off.”
Backman said Tuesday that Syndergaard could use a little more seasoning in the minors.
“Everybody thinks he’s on the Wheeler-Harvey type of system. I think he’ll stay here a little bit longer than those guys did, just to develop,” he said. “He’s a 21-year-old kid who’s got a very special arm. I think the organization wants to make sure that he’s right when he goes to the big leagues.
“With the pitching they have, there’s not a need to push him as quickly as Wheeler last year.”
Syndergaard, acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays with catcher Travis d’Arnaud and minor league outfielder Wuilmer Becerra for pitcher R.A. Dickey in December 2012, made his first 10 starts as scheduled this season. He has allowed 27 earned runs on 62 hits in 54 1/3 innings, with 57 strikeouts and 19 walks.
“He has the stuff,” Backman said. “His stuff is A-plus fastball, breaking ball and changeup. Everything is off the charts.
“For me, it’s all about fastball command, when he can locate to both sides of the plate, which he’s shown he can do. But when he can do it with more consistency, his numbers will get better and he’ll be pushing the buttons for them to make the phone call to take him.”
Syndergaard, who was clocked at 97 mph Thursday, said he has “somewhat” lived up to his expectations in his first season in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
“I know people get scared of pitching in the PCL a little bit, but if you can pitch here, you can basically pitch anywhere,” he said. “Every start, I’m making strides to pitch in the big leagues. I feel like I’m improving.”
Before injuring his shoulder, Syndergaard said he wouldn’t be disappointed if he didn’t follow the same path to the majors as Harvey and Wheeler.
“I trust the front office staff. If they think I’m ready, I’ll gladly make the trip up to New York,” he said. “Until then, I’ll work on my craft here and continue to get better and help the 51s get some more victories.”
■ NOTES — Fresno left-hander Mike Kickham held Las Vegas (35-25) to two hits in seven shutout innings. … Daniel Muno and Josh Satin hit back-to-back homers in the eighth and Kirk Nieuwenhuis homered in the ninth for the 51s, who are 4-14 since a 31-11 start.
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter: @tdewey33.