deGrom feels good; goal is to pitch opener

July 17th, 2020

NEW YORK -- is optimistic for Opening Day. His bosses with the Mets seem less certain.

A day after receiving a clean MRI scan of his back, deGrom said he intends to pitch this weekend and, if all goes well, start July 24 against the Braves at Citi Field.

“The plan is to be able to pitch Opening Day,” he said.

But Mets officials cut off deGrom’s Zoom interview with reporters after less than six minutes, and manager Luis Rojas said the team did not have a plan for deGrom beyond Thursday afternoon, when the two-time reigning National League Cy Young Award winner was due to receive treatment.

After initially saying the Mets would determine deGrom’s next steps only after he reports to the ballpark on Friday, Rojas revealed late Thursday night that deGrom was actually able to get in a throwing session earlier in the day. Even so, Rojas would not commit to deGrom throwing a bullpen session on what would be his normal day Friday.

“We’re excited for the news that came out from the MRI obviously being clean, but this is a day-to-day approach that we’re taking,” Rojas said. “We’re all hopeful for a lot of things -- that Jake can throw, that Jake can [go] Opening Day, but right now it’s a day-to-day approach that we’re taking.”

In his first public comments since leaving Tuesday’s intrasquad game after only one inning due to muscle tightness in his back, deGrom revealed that he woke up Tuesday feeling a bit of discomfort that never dissipated. Rather than attempt to pitch through it, as he would have during the regular season, deGrom alerted pitching coach Jeremy Hefner and a member of the training staff, who removed him from the game.

Even after that episode, deGrom did not consider the issue serious enough to warrant an MRI, but he consented to one “out of an abundance of caution.”

“What was weird is it was just out of the blue,” deGrom said. “So I think I must have just slept wrong, because when I threw [a bullpen session] Sunday, I felt like I could have pitched. So this was nothing like one pitch. It just was something that didn’t loosen up.”

The Mets have reason to be cautious with deGrom, who owns a 2.05 ERA over 64 starts the past two seasons, entrenching his place as a perennial Cy Young Award contender. If the Mets are to make a run in the NL East this season, they will need deGrom to be at his best for 12 or 13 starts.

deGrom, for his part, does not believe he is in any danger of having anything less than vintage stuff on Opening Day. The question is more how deep into that start he can go. Originally, deGrom was scheduled to stretch out to 85 pitches on Sunday night, then be good for around 100 on Opening Day. Because he only threw one inning in his abbreviated start, however, deGrom now intends to throw around 65 pitches on Sunday, followed by up to 85 on Opening Day.

That is, assuming the Mets let him. Asked several times about the plan for deGrom, Rojas responded repeatedly that the team had none outside of deGrom’s treatment session on Tuesday. He put the impetus on the Mets’ “performance staff” -- a group of trainers that establishes and executes rehab plans for injured players. But the general consensus from both deGrom and Rojas was that the two-time Cy Young Award winner has avoided the worst.

“I think if that was a regular game, I wouldn’t have said anything,” deGrom said. “But as far as it being a Spring Training camp or Summer Camp game, there was no reason to push through something and risk actually injuring myself. It was out of an abundance of caution and just trying to play it smart.”