NEW YORK -- There may not be an athlete in America whose weekly schedule has been as dissected, spliced, diced, and otherwise examined as that of Jacob deGrom. Initially, the Mets made much ado of their desire to have deGrom pitch three times in the final 11 days leading up to the All-Star break. But when Tuesday’s game was rained out, necessitating a seven-inning doubleheader on Wednesday, the equation changed.
Now, the Mets are debating whether to bring deGrom back on short rest this weekend, after he threw just 85 pitches in a 4-3 win over the Brewers in Game 1 of Wednesday’s split doubleheader at Citi Field. No matter what deGrom chooses, he will not participate in the All-Star Game or fly to Denver for next week’s festivities. deGrom’s foremost loyalties lie with the Mets, who continued to display their resiliency on Jeff McNeil’s walk-off, two-run single in the eighth inning of Game 1.
“Jake’s mindset is here,” manager Luis Rojas said. “He just wants to be with his team, and he wants to produce for his team, pitch for his team. … He has respect for the event. He obviously wants to be a part of it. But with everything that’s happened this season, I think his mindset is: if he’s going to pitch, he’s going to pitch here.”
Over his last three starts, deGrom has proven human in a way that he never did over his first 12 outings, in which he went 7-2 with an 0.50 ERA. deGrom has since produced a 3.15 ERA in three starts -- excellent for just about any other pitcher, but pedestrian for him.
Wednesday’s game saw deGrom allow multiple home runs for the first time this season, on a pair of solo shots to Luis Urías and Jace Peterson. But much as he recovered from a rocky start in his previous outing, deGrom retired nearly everyone else to complete seven effective innings. He struck out 10 en route to becoming the second-fastest pitcher to reach 1,500 in a career.
“It’s surprising whenever somebody squares up a ball against him,” Rojas said.
Given how much deGrom means to New York, and given the fact that he missed bits and pieces of the first half due to mild side, elbow and shoulder problems, the Mets don’t want the All-Star Game to interfere with their longer-term mission of bubble-wrapping their ace. deGrom, in turn, no longer feels the same pull of the Midsummer Classic, given that he’s been to three of them already in his career.
So, he will skip this year’s event in Denver, choosing instead to spend time with his family. He hopes that Major League Baseball chooses his teammate, Taijuan Walker -- a notable All-Star omission -- to take his place.
“I’ve thought about it, and obviously being named to an All-Star team is a great honor, but I’m going to take that time and just enjoy it with my family whether I pitch Sunday or not, and get healthy for the second half,” deGrom said.
deGrom’s status for Sunday’s first-half finale against the Pirates will depend upon how he feels during the week. Typically, deGrom throws a light, “touch-and-feel” session off a mound on his second day after a start, followed by a more intensive bullpen session on his third day. If he feels up to it, deGrom could skip the second bullpen session and throw an inning or two on the Citi Field mound instead, though he wouldn’t likely log a full starter’s workload.
But if deGrom feels at all like doing so would overtax his body, he won’t risk it. Not pitching Sunday would mean eight days of rest between starts for the two-time Cy Young Award winner.
“That’s just going to be based on how I feel,” said deGrom, whose ERA rose to 1.08 after Wednesday’s no-decision. “We don’t have anybody to pitch that day, so we’ll try to evaluate the rest of the week, see how I recover and go from there.”