Brushing off struggles, deGrom eyes new streak

April 30th, 2019

NEW YORK -- Following his last start at Citi Field, stood in front of his locker answering questions in what seemed like a haze. He said he “stunk” and called his performance “embarrassing” after a five-run start, which bloated his ERA to a career-high 4.85. But he also offered a message of hope: “I think I’ll figure it out.”

An even more confident deGrom stood in front of his locker on Tuesday, talking about what he must do to return to Cy Young form. He mentioned his first two outings of this season, which gave him a Major League record-tying 26 consecutive quality starts. Then he grinned.

“Maybe I’ll try to go for that record I was going for,” deGrom said. “What is it, 27? I’ve got 27 starts left.”

As long as deGrom stays healthy -- and he insists his arm feels great -- he should indeed pitch around 27 games the rest of the way, beginning Wednesday against the Reds at Citi Field. He figures those outings will be much improved.

So confident is deGrom that, between starts, he did not alter any part of his usual routine. He threw his usual two bullpen sessions, focusing mostly on a mechanical issue that affected him in his recent starts -- deGrom was “drifting” on the mound, leaning his upper body toward home plate instead of gathering his weight atop the pitching rubber. That caused deGrom to “fly open” with an inconsistent release point, resulting in fastballs leaking back over the plate and sliders diving out of control.

The results: 0-3 with a 9.69 ERA in his last three starts, a stat line unrecognizable from the Cy Young credentials he posted last season.

“It is the standard that I want to live up to, and I had three in a row where I didn’t,” deGrom said. “But what is there, 27, 28 starts left? That’s a lot of time. So I think knowing what I was able to do last year and knowing what I was able to do in my first two starts definitely makes it easier.”

Manager Mickey Callaway said there’s not much else the coaching staff can do. Superstars such as deGrom and Noah Syndergaard have little choice but to figure out their issues in Major League games. And the Mets, Callaway continued, “are going to win or lose with them.”

“I think everything’s going to be fine,” deGrom said. “I know how to pitch. It’s just going out there and doing it.”

On the mend

Yoenis Cespedes continued his trip to New York on Tuesday, visiting doctors and trainers and spending a long while chatting with general manager Brodie Van Wagenen in the Mets’ clubhouse. Through a team spokesman, Cespedes declined to give an update on his recovery from multiple heel surgeries. But he has been throwing, hitting off a tee and biking up to 40 miles per day, according to Callaway. He has not begun a running program.

That is the extent of what the Mets are willing to say publicly about Cespedes, who won’t return until after the All-Star break at the earliest. Asked if Cespedes’ return is a matter of “when” or “if,” Callaway demurred.

“That’s still probably hard to speculate,” the manager said. “Just understand that he has a process that he has to go through every single day to do his best to get back and try to help us.”

From the trainer’s room

Second baseman Robinson Cano was out of the lineup for a second straight game Tuesday, two days after getting hit by a pitch on the left hand. Cano swung in an indoor cage and could return as soon as Wednesday against the Reds.

In the community

Mets players Jeff McNeil and Daniel Zamora surprised students from PS 19 in Corona with a pizza party on Tuesday, honoring the classroom that read the most in the team’s “Ya Gotta Read” program. The Mets challenged 7,500 students in elementary schools in Queens and Brooklyn to read 20 minutes a night for six weeks, with baseball-themed prizes as a reward. In total, the students read for more than 4 million minutes.