NEW YORK -- Once again, Jacob deGrom has avoided the worst, though this time he could not sidestep the injured list.
An MRI administered on deGrom’s right side revealed no structural damage, after he left Sunday’s start while warming up for the sixth inning due to what the Mets called “right side discomfort.” The team assigned deGrom to the 10-day IL in a move that could cost him only one start. Mets officials have not provided a timetable for deGrom, who is eligible to return as soon as May 21 in Miami. In a corresponding move, the club recalled Sean Reid-Foley from Triple-A Syracuse.
The prognosis is similar to earlier this month, when deGrom skipped a start due to right lat tightness. That wound up costing him only one appearance, though it’s impossible to know if -- or to what extent -- the lat issue played into his subsequent lower back woes. deGrom has a mild but notable history of back issues, including a bout of tightness that forced him to leave a Summer Camp scrimmage early in 2020. None of his previous lower back incidents cost him significant time.
In that manner, the Mets hope this situation will prove similar to so many others that have affected deGrom over the past four seasons. At various points since 2018, he has skipped starts due to minor elbow, back, neck and right-side injuries. deGrom has now landed on the IL three times over that stretch, but he never missed more than a start or two.
From a wider angle, deGrom has been one of the game’s most durable pitchers during that timeframe, ranking third in the Majors in innings (529) and tied for sixth in games started (82) since 2018. He has also been one of the game’s most effective pitchers, winning two National League Cy Young Awards with a 1.99 ERA and 693 strikeouts.
“We want everyone to be with the team for the entire season to help us compete and win,” manager Luis Rojas said on Sunday. “And that’s what we’re doing with Jake. … We’ll listen to the experts first, and then we’ll come up with a plan.”
This season, deGrom has been nearly untouchable, producing an MLB-leading 0.68 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 40 innings. He threw four perfect innings Sunday against the D-backs before running into trouble in the fifth, walking three batters in an inning for the first time in three years. Upon returning to the mound for the top of the sixth, deGrom felt enough discomfort to call for a trainer. The Mets promptly removed him from the game.
“We don’t try to force anything here, knowing that there’s something going on,” Rojas said. “We always try to make sure that our guys are everything-free -- tightness-free, soreness-free, everything.”
While they await deGrom's return, the Mets will rely on healthy starters Marcus Stroman, Taijuan Walker, David Peterson and Joey Lucchesi, knowing their rotation should be much stronger by June. New York is missing Carlos Carrasco, who is recovering from a torn right hamstring, and Noah Syndergaard, who has not appeared in a game since undergoing Tommy John surgery last March. Those two are due back in early and mid-June, respectively.