deGrom labors, wins despite blister

August 9th, 2020

NEW YORK -- From the home dugout Sunday, Mets pitching coach Jeremy Hefner noticed fussing over his right hand, examining his middle finger -- the telltale signs of a blister. So Hefner, along with head athletic trainer Brian Chicklo and manager Luis Rojas, came out to the mound for a meeting in the second inning of the Mets’ 4-2 win over the Marlins at Citi Field.

Following a brief conversation, deGrom convinced the group that he was fine -- that he was suffering not from a full-blown blister, but a “hot spot” small enough for him to file off between starts. deGrom stayed in the game and, while he wasn’t his usual dominant self during five innings of two-run ball, he did enough to pick up his second consecutive victory.

“A couple pitches I could feel it a little bit -- the ball slipped off, and I could feel like I was getting a blister,” deGrom said. “But I was fine. I told them I was fine.”

Even before deGrom became concerned about his finger, his performance was somewhat uncharacteristic. The right-hander opened the second inning with eight straight balls, walking consecutive batters for the first time in 26 starts. After deGrom allowed an infield hit to Eddy Alvarez and shooed Hefner, Rojas and Chicklo from the mound, he recovered to retire nine of the next 11 batters he faced -- still pumping 97 mph fastballs into the strike zone, still looking for the most part like a two-time reigning National League Cy Young Award winner.

Even throughout that stretch, however, deGrom struggled to lock in his usual pinpoint command. That manifested itself in the fifth inning, when he allowed a single to Jon Berti and a two-run homer to Jesús Aguilar. By inning’s end, deGrom was up to 98 pitches, which Rojas considered plenty. He allowed seven hits, marking just the second time in his last 20 starts he has given up more than six.

“It was a lot of stress,” Rojas said. “It’s hot out there. … [The blister] was nothing that was really bothering him, or made him stop being out there and competing the way he does. He kept going. He found his groove back.”

deGrom has dealt with minor blister issues in the past, but he's never missed time because of them. He believes this will be no different leading into his next start Friday in Philadelphia.

“I’m still going to go out there every fifth day,” deGrom said. “That’s the goal.”