Jacob deGrom has hit another key marker in his injury recovery, as Mets GM Billy Eppler and manager Buck Showalter told reporters (including Deesha Thosar of The New York Daily News) that deGrom will begin a minor league rehab assignment on Sunday with the Mets’ low-A affiliate. DeGrom is slated to toss two innings and roughly 25 pitches.
It will mark deGrom’s first official game action of any kind in almost a full year, as the former NL Cy Young Award winner tossed seven innings against the Brewers on July 7, 2021 before forearm problems prematurely ended his 2021 season. During Spring Training, deGrom was then set back by a stress reaction in his right shoulder, again keeping the ace on the sidelines.
Given the long layoff, deGrom has been slowly brought along, and that timeline won’t change now that he has embarked on his rehab assignment. Eppler compared deGrom’s planned workload for Sunday’s game to what would be expected from a pitcher in his first Spring Training outing, and the Mets plan to be fluid with deGrom’s schedule going forward (i.e. he might not pitch every five days). Even if all goes well, this elongated timeline means that deGrom will surely still be on the injured list until after the All-Star break, and he might not be fully ready to return to the big leagues until early in August.
Still, there does appear to be some light at the end of what has surely been a frustrating tunnel for deGrom. While the Mets are still in first place in the NL East even without their longtime ace (and other key players like Max Scherzer for long portions of the season), the Braves have moved to within 3.5 games of the division lead, and the Phillies have played much better baseball over the last month. Beyond just the NL East, the Mets will surely need their rotation in top form if they hope to continue their strong play into the postseason and then contend for a World Series title.
Given how aggressive the Mets were in the offseason, starting pitching is probably on the team’s deadline checklist even if deGrom progresses well in his rehab. At full strength, New York’s first-choice rotation of deGrom, Scherzer, Carlos Carrasco, Chris Bassitt, and Taijuan Walker is among the best in the league, but health is certainly no guarantee. Eppler told Thosar and other media members that he is open to all possibilities at the deadline, and that owner Steve Cohen has no issue continuing to spend big in the right situation.