Mets ace Jacob deGrom, who has yet to pitch this season and is on the mend from a stress reaction in his right scapula, underwent his latest follow-up MRI yesterday, the team announced. They issued the following statement in the wake of this latest test:
“He underwent follow-up imaging yesterday that revealed continued healing in the scapula. He will continue to build distance and velocity in his throwing program, and we will provide an update on his progress when appropriate.”
On the one hand, it’s somewhat encouraging that there’s been no setback and deGrom ostensibly appears to be progressing toward a return. On the other, it’s surely frustrating for all parties that there’s no clear indication as to when deGrom might get back on the mound at Citi Field. MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo wrote last night, after speaking to pitching coach Jeremy Hefner, that deGrom would require between three and five minor league rehab starts.
Of course, given the vague nature of the Mets’ statement, it’s not clear just when that minor league rehab work might begin. The Mets indicated that deGrom is still throwing, but the standard progression would be to go from flat ground, to mound work, to facing live hitters before jumping into a rehab game — with rest days smattered throughout that process. If deGrom is indeed slated for five rehab appearances, that could tack upwards of four weeks onto the process. Inferring a bit, it’s hard to see him back before mid-to-late June at this point, but the Mets have rather deliberately avoided making any definitive statements.
“We don’t want to mess around with reinjuring that type of situation, because then he’s done for the year,” Hefner told DiComo yesterday. “So we’re definitely going to play the long game with him to make sure that we have him for the rest of the season.”
Looking purely at the standings, no one would be able to tell that the Mets have been missing the game’s best pitcher this season. Their 23-13 record already gives them a hefty 5.5-game lead over the second-place Phillies in the National League East, to say nothing of the game’s third best winning percentage (.639, trailing only the Dodgers and Yankees). The Mets have received seven starts apiece from Max Scherzer, Chris Bassitt, Carlos Carrasco and Tylor Megill, and that quartet has combined for an outstanding 3.22 ERA in 162 innings. Taijuan Walker (four starts) and David Peterson (three) have also been excellent in their opportunities thus far.
On the whole, Mets starters rank sixth in the Majors in ERA — even without deGrom. They’re also ranked third in FIP and fifth in SIERA, in addition to possessing the seventh-best strikeout rate and second-lowest walk rate of any team in baseball. Given the group’s collective dominance, the Mets can afford to take a more cautious approach with deGrom. That may well have been the team’s approach regardless, but an outstanding rotation and comfortable first-place lead certainly quell any temptation to push deGrom that might crop up in a more tightly contested division and/or with broad-reaching struggles from alternative rotation options.