Jacob deGrom hasn’t thrown since a July 30 setback in his recovery from elbow inflammation prompted a two-week shutdown. With that initial shutdown having passed, there’d been some hope deGrom could restart his throwing program in the coming days. That, however, won’t be the case.
Mets manager Luis Rojas told reporters (including Deesha Thosar of the New York Daily News) that deGrom’s shutdown will last at least another two weeks. Rojas stressed that deGrom isn’t dealing with structural damage and that the inflammation is improving. That said, it’s apparently not progressing quickly enough for him to begin throwing again before late August, at the earliest.
Hope remains that deGrom will be able to return to the majors at some point this year. That window of opportunity’s dwindling, though, with just seven weeks remaining in the regular season. In a best case scenario, deGrom begins a throwing program two weeks from now. He’ll need some time to build up arm strength before he can embark upon a minor league rehab assignment.
The Mets could expedite that rehab process by building deGrom up to work in shorter stints, just as they’re leaning towards brining Noah Syndergaard back as a relief weapon. In such a scenario, deGrom could still serve as a starting pitcher, but scheduling constraints make it unlikely New York will have the luxury of building deGrom up to work 100+ pitches with regularity for the stretch run.
Needless to say, losing the best pitcher in baseball has dealt a tough blow to the Mets. deGrom looked to be coasting to his third career Cy Young Award (and potentially the NL MVP award) early in the season. Over fifteen starts, the 33-year-old tossed 92 innings of 1.08 ERA/1.74 SIERA ball.
Despite a series of injuries to key position players, the Mets remained in first place in the NL East for much of the early summer — thanks largely to deGrom’s absurd level of dominance. A bout of forearm tightness sent him to the injured list on July 18, though. The accompanying elbow inflammation is now set to cost him at least a significant chunk of the season’s second half.
The Mets have fallen on hard times in recent weeks. New York has gone 11-13 since placing deGrom on the IL, with the rotation posting a disappointing 5.71 ERA/4.74 SIERA over that time. The skid — coupled with the Phillies’ recent hot streak — has put the Mets a half game back of Philadelphia and a half game up on the Braves in a tightly-contested division race.
Obviously, there’s still plenty of opportunity for the Mets to take ahold of the division. They’ll have to go at least a majority of the stretch run without their ace, though, leaving New York relying on a starting staff including Marcus Stroman, Carlos Carrasco, Tylor Megill, Taijuan Walker, Rich Hill and Trevor Williams.
That’s still a talented group, but there’s also a fair bit of uncertainty. Stroman has been excellent all year, and the unheralded Megill has stepped up with 45 innings of 3.20 ERA/3.80 SIERA ball over his first nine big league starts. (Tim Britton of the Athletic explored Megill’s rapid rise in the organization this morning in a piece that should be of interest to Mets fans). The veteran group at the back of the rotation comes with plenty of question marks, though.
Carrasco has only made three starts this year because of a hamstring tear. He’s a highly accomplished pitcher at his best, but it remains to be seen if the 34-year-old will be able to pitch at his peak level down the stretch. Walker began the year well but he’s been hit hard over his past five starts. Hill has pitched well overall but seen his swinging strike rate plummet recently, and Williams struggled with the Cubs and has only made a single MLB appearance for the Mets to date.