PHILADELPHIA -- Given a second inning, Jacob deGrom says, "I would like to think I'd have figured it out." The Mets simply were not going to give him the chance -- not after the Phillies worked 20 fouls off him in the first inning Sunday, forcing him to throw 45 pitches in the first inning of the Mets' 4-2 loss. deGrom may have again proved his proclivity for pitching out of jams, but this time, he paid a price for it.
After walking the first three batters he faced at Citizens Bank Park, deGrom struck out Rhys Hoskins, induced a forceout at home on a Carlos Santana ground ball then fanned Maikel Franco to end the inning. That he needed 45 pitches to do it prompted the Mets to remove him for a pinch-hitter when his spot in the batting order came up in the top of the second.
"I was kind of surprised, honestly," deGrom said. "I definitely would have liked to have gone back out there. The reasoning, I understand. But who wants to pitch one inning as a starter?"
The team announced that deGrom was not dealing with any sort of injury, and manager Mickey Callaway indicated that he would never let a pitcher come back out for a second inning after throwing 40-something pitches in the first. Even without a 59-minute rain delay disrupting deGrom's routine to start the game, Callaway said, that pitch count was enough for him to practice caution with the right-hander -- particularly considering deGrom skipped his last start due to a hyperextended right elbow.
"He felt fine," Callaway said. "We just didn't feel good sending him back out. We can't do that to anybody. That's a lot of pitches for one inning."
In the week and a half after leaving his May 2 start early with the hyperextended elbow, deGrom threw a simulated game and a regular bullpen session, proving to the Mets' coaching and medical staffs that he was prepared to start Sunday.
They just didn't anticipate a historically high pitch count in his first inning back. Not since Nick Bierbrodt threw 48 pitches in the first inning of a 2001 game had a pitcher tossed so many in a scoreless, hitless inning. The Angels' Jaime Barria threw 49 -- including 21 to Brandon Belt -- in a shutout first earlier this season, but allowed three hits. The overall record (dating back to 1988, when pitch count statistics became reliable) for starting pitchers who lasted an inning or less belongs to Bartolo Colon, who threw 61 in just two-thirds of an inning against the Mariners in 1997.
The last time a Mets starter departed after a scoreless first inning was much more recent: Sept. 23 of last season, when Noah Syndergaard threw a shutout first in his return from a lat injury. The similarities, however, ended there. Syndergaard needed just five pitches to record three outs, or one-ninth of the total that deGrom amassed.
"That's a lot," deGrom said. "It's not ideal. It's definitely not the goal. So I understand [the decision], and I'm looking forward to getting back out there in five days."