WASHINGTON -- Most accounts of Jacob deGrom’s right shoulder injury focus on his third inning last Wednesday, when he winced and shook his arm following a pitch to the Cubs’ Eric Sogard. But deGrom actually believes he hurt himself the previous inning, when he swung and missed at a Robert Stock fastball. When deGrom returned to the mound for the third, his shoulder did not feel right.
It also didn’t feel completely wrong, which is why deGrom is not on the injured list. Speaking for the first time since receiving his MRI results on Thursday morning, deGrom said Friday that the shoulder soreness, which knocked him out of his last start after three innings, was not unlike what he typically feels after starts. The only difference is that this time, deGrom felt it during an outing.
“I feel like if it’s anything serious, you can’t touch it [without pain],” deGrom told MLB.com. “It normally gets sore there after I pitch, but not normally during a game. … [To feel it] midgame and then have it not go away, it’s not a normal time to get it. The first two innings, I felt completely fine. I think when I swung and missed up and away, I just aggravated it trying to slow the bat down and then I felt it when I was throwing.”
Because the soreness felt so familiar to deGrom, he told Mets officials that he should be fine to proceed with his normal between-starts throwing program. And the Mets saw no reason to hold him back after an MRI revealed no structural damage. Both their medical staff and a third-party doctor agreed that deGrom wasn’t risking much by continuing to throw.
To that end, deGrom played his usual game of catch on Thursday and fired a 10-pitch bullpen the following afternoon at Nationals Park. He intends to throw another, heavier bullpen session on Saturday, with the unspoken intent of starting Monday if all goes well. Officially, the team is “approaching this day by day,” according to manager Luis Rojas, but the Mets would not be letting deGrom throw if they had no designs on using him early next week.
Assuming deGrom does start against the Braves, one subplot will be whether the Mets allow him to swing the bat. Rojas said earlier this week that the coaching staff could instruct him not to swing, much as it did with Taijuan Walker in a game earlier this year. deGrom also injured his right lat in May while swinging a bat.
But deGrom is also one of the game’s foremost competitors, as well as one of its best-hitting pitchers, with a .423 average and more RBIs (six) than earned runs allowed (four). When asked if he might refrain from swinging next week, deGrom broke into a grin.
“You can tell them that,” he said. “That way, they throw me all fastballs.”
Prepared to toe the line
Outfielder Albert Almora Jr. rejoined the Mets in Washington after missing nearly six weeks following a collision with the center-field fence at Citi Field. Officially, Almora was rehabbing a left shoulder contusion, but he said Friday that the more troubling issue was actually a torn ligament in his right big toe.
“I felt pretty good like a week after it happened, but it was unstable,” Almora said. “I had to let that heal. With a little bit of support right now, I feel fine.”
Almora recently visited a foot specialist, who cleared him to play. He has appeared in eight games for Triple-A Syracuse on a Minor League rehab assignment. The Mets plan to activate Almora before one of their two games at Nationals Park on Saturday, but they will have to make a difficult roster decision before doing so. Outfielder Mason Williams, who has started sporadically in center with Almora absent, is the most likely candidate to depart.
Almora, whom the Mets signed to a $1.25 million contract this winter to serve as their fifth outfielder, is happy simply to be back. He figures to serve as the Mets’ primary backup at all three outfield positions until Brandon Nimmo returns from the IL in late June or early July, knocking Almora further down the depth chart at that time.
“It’s hard not to take it for granted at times,” Almora said of playing baseball again. “And when I was put in the situation where it was taken away from me, it sucks and it hurt, just because I know the type of person and the player I am, and I always want to be on the field. So just getting out there, being able to play [eight] games, it was unreal, and I’m excited to come back. Honestly, man. This is the life up here.”
Let’s play two
The Mets have not announced who will start Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader in Washington, but they carried two extra pitchers -- starter Jerad Eickhoff and reliever Yennsy Díaz -- on their taxi squad to provide some options. Relievers Sean Reid-Foley and Robert Gsellman are also candidates to start, in what will likely be a group effort.