deGrom 'very aggravated,' but downplays left side issue
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Rangers ace Jacob deGrom stood in front of his locker in Texas’ clubhouse and smiled as if nothing happened and it was a normal first day of camp. For him, it might as well have been, even after the somewhat disappointing news that left side tightness has limited him to start camp.
Just hours before the Rangers’ first official workout for pitchers and catchers on Wednesday, general manager Chris Young announced that deGrom felt "a little tightness" in his left side during his bullpen session a couple days earlier. As a result, Young made the decision to hold deGrom back from throwing for a day or two as a precaution.
When addressing the media for the first time on Thursday, deGrom downplayed the setback, noting that he was comfortable taking a small step back due to where he was at with his buildup before arriving in Arizona.
“Dealing with what I dealt with the past couple years, the last thing you wanted to do is come in and say, ‘Hey, my left side is a little sore,’” deGrom said. “But looking at the positive of how it's feeling, I felt fine. It was just like, ‘Hey, this is a little stiff feeling,’ and relaying that message, and then them telling me to be smart about this and make sure this is gone before we push forward.”
Concern is understandable considering deGrom’s recent injury history.
deGrom began dealing with minor back and right arm troubles during the COVID-shortened 2020 season, then he missed the entire second half of the ‘21 season with right elbow inflammation. Prior to that injury, he posted a 1.08 ERA over 92 innings. The following spring, deGrom suffered a stress reaction in his right scapula, which sidelined him until early August. He ultimately pitched to a 3.08 ERA over 11 regular-season starts in ‘22.
Despite the laundry list of prior injuries, there is optimism concerning the latest setback. The “side stiffness” is much more manageable than any of his prior arm or shoulder injuries, and it being on his non-throwing side adds further comfort.
“I'll be honest, I don't look at this as a health issue,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I can't tell you how many times in my 25 years of managing when we've done this to a pitcher, even a position player, just to give them another day or two. That was our call. ... We took it away from him. We don't look at it like that. Sure, I know he’s Jacob deGrom, so that's going to raise some eyebrows, but not with us. And I can tell you we don't have any concerns. We just want to nip this and make sure it's not something that hangs around.”
Bochy added that deGrom would be re-evaluated on Friday before getting back on the mound. deGrom last threw off the mound about a week ago, before getting to Arizona. The soreness initially popped up while playing catch, and it lingered a bit even after stretching.
With the ace being ahead of schedule in his throwing program -- throwing all his pitches instead of just fastballs and changeups -- he, Young and Bochy all agreed to get ahead of any potential issues that could have long-term effects.
“It's Feb. 15, the goals are [to be healthy] at the start of the season, so don't do anything dumb now,” deGrom said. “Like I said, how I prepared this offseason, with the amount of throwing -- I did a lot of throwing, more than normal -- just to get in a good spot, and I was very aggravated with something little like this to pop up. But the bright side is how good my arm feels and where my stuff was at throwing off the mound at home.”
Even with the setback, deGrom feels a sense of excitement during the first week of camp, being around his new team with a group of players working toward the goal of winning a World Series.
“You come in every year and you're very optimistic,” deGrom said. “But like I've said before, it all starts whenever you take the field. Everybody loves to talk about things, but let's go play baseball. Being around these guys and everybody pulling in the same direction with the same goals, I think we can do something special. That's the goal.”