deGrom day to day; no issue on MRI (source)

July 15th, 2020

NEW YORK -- An MRI taken Wednesday on 's back did not show “anything concerning,” according to a source, a day after deGrom left an intrasquad start early due to muscle tightness. deGrom is day to day, though it is not yet clear what sort of impact the episode could have on his readiness for Opening Day.

“Particularly talking about Jake, knowing that he has a history of back tightness … we’ll wait to see him, and then we’ll definitely take an approach with the performance staff [for] what we need to do,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said before learning the MRI results.

deGrom, 32, has posted a 2.05 ERA with 524 strikeouts in 421 innings the past two seasons. He has experienced bouts of back tightness before -- most recently in 2018, when an episode forced him out of what would have been his first career Opening Day start. deGrom missed just one outing, saying at the time that he could have pitched through it had the Mets chosen a less conservative approach.

Since then, deGrom has become one of baseball’s most dependable pitchers, starting 32 games in each of the past two seasons. He was scheduled to throw multiple innings in Tuesday’s intrasquad game and hit 100 mph on the radar gun in the first of them, according to Rojas. But upon coming off the mound, deGrom alerted pitching coach Jeremy Hefner and a trainer to his back discomfort. He did not reappear.

Rojas said he never spoke directly to deGrom either Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, but that deGrom worked with the Mets’ medical and training staffs before departing Citi Field for his MRI on Wednesday.

“Right now, it’s just a day-to-day thing,” Rojas said.

Even so, Rojas admitted any injury for a player as crucial as deGrom seems amplified in a 60-game season, where skipping one start is roughly equivalent to missing three in a normal year. deGrom had been scheduled to make 12 or possibly 13 starts over the abbreviated regular season; it remains to be seen if his inability to stretch out to multiple innings in Tuesday’s game will affect his Opening Day status. If all goes well, deGrom would theoretically pitch Sunday in an exhibition at Yankee Stadium, then July 24 against the Braves on Opening Day.

If deGrom does not respond quickly to treatment, the Mets could either slide him back in the rotation -- in which case, Marcus Stroman would become the presumptive Opening Day starter -- or skip his first turn entirely. The team’s depth options include David Peterson (who threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings in an intrasquad game on Wednesday), Walker Lockett and Corey Oswalt, all of whom are on the 40-man roster. Rojas also specifically mentioned Erasmo Ramirez, a veteran starter who signed a Minor League deal with the Mets over the offseason.

For now, everything depends upon how quickly deGrom can recover.

“He’s got back tightness. We’ll reassess on that soon,” Rojas said. “So we’ll see what Jake’s status is and we’ll learn more each day."