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If Steven Matz pitches for Mets again this season, it will be in relief

NEW YORK -- If Steven Matz pitches again for the Mets this season -- and that's no certainty -- he will be making his first career relief appearance.

Matz is 9-8 with a 3.40 ERA but hasn't pitched since Aug. 14 because of a shoulder impingement. He rehabbed the shoulder and was ramping up to make a possible start earlier this week, but Matz felt pain again after throwing the bullpen session that would precede the outing.

The club hasn't shut down Matz yet. They sent him for a medical exam on Friday, hoping they can get some contribution from him before the end of the regular season or in a possible postseason appearance -- or both. But the window appears to have closed for him to build up to a starting assignment.

"Right now, if he's able to throw -- able to pitch -- maybe we'll put him in the 'pen and see if we can get him an inning here or an inning there to see how he reacts to it," manager Terry Collins said before the Mets squared off with the Phillies at Citi Field.

"Right now, where we are, today, you're looking at: we've got a spot starter today (Sean Gilmartin), [Robert] Gsellman tomorrow, who's one of our guys, and I'm not sure where we're going to get him in."

All 28 of Matz's appearances have been starting assignments. Collins was asked if he had any hesitation to deploy the lefthander as a reliever, especially in a postseason setting.

"You're talking about a playoff situation where we don't even know if he can pitch right now," Collins said. "If he doesn't pitch at all, you certainly can't start him in the playoffs, so either he helps you now and gets some innings out of the bullpen or he doesn't pitch at all."

Collins said he would have to give Matz a lot of notice before he entered a game as a reliever. The manager also said he would not be able to use Matz on consecutive days.

In other Mets rotation news, Collins said Noah Syndergaard will return to the rotation Tuesday. The right-hander, who is 13-9 with a 2.63 ERA, had been scheduled to pitch Saturday but caught strep throat. He is being treated with antibiotics.

"We're looking at Monday or Tuesday. We aren't really sure yet, which date. There's obviously some things down the road we have to take a look at," Collins said, referring to a possible tiebreaker game or the National League wild-card game. "A lot of it will be how he feels after coming today. [If] he feels a lot better today -- he's got some energy back after the 'pen -- we'll see how he feels. If it wears him down real fast or not.

"If you were as sick as he was for a couple of days, he might need the extra day, maybe not."

Jacob deGrom's stitches were on full display as the right-hander spoke for the first time since having season-ending surgery to reposition the ulnar nerve at his elbow.

DeGrom said the doctor told him that surgery was the correct move and that the spot where the nerve was being compressed -- and causing numbness in his fingers -- was clear.

The recovery period is three months and, when asked about spring training, deGrom said, "I should be fine."

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