Not only is Jacob deGrom one of the best pitchers of the last quarter-century, he’s also one of the most low-maintenance for someone of his considerable talents.
In the last week, however, the Mets’ ace has suddenly created one of the most confounding series of events I’ve ever seen. And there’s no reason — zero — for that series to go any further.
The Mets are out of their minds if they don’t place deGrom, who saw his second straight start cut short by an arm ailment Wednesday night at Citi Field, on the injured list by the first pitch of Thursday’s game against the Cubs.
The club’s third straight win and sixth in seven tries, 6-3 over the Cubs, featured three spectacular innings by deGrom … and only three. After he struck out eight of the nine batters he faced, going one-third the distance to a perfect game, the right-hander departed with soreness in his right shoulder, just five days after he cited flexor tendinitis in his pitching elbow for leaving after six innings and 80 pitches of a 3-2 victory over the Padres. DeGrom will undergo an MRI exam on the shoulder Thursday.
“This is frustrating,” said deGrom, who spent time on the IL earlier this season with right side tightness. “I want to be out there as long as I can be out there.”
Nevertheless, the 32-year-old said a strength test had proven encouraging and added, “I’m pretty confident this is nothing,” with the hope, just as he stated five days prior, that he could make his next start.
Manager Luis Rojas, who hopped aboard the “Everything is fine!” train the night deGrom revealed his flexor tendinitis, again echoed his pitcher’s optimism, saying, “Initially, I’m not on the high side of the level of concern.”
I suppose “high concern” and “low concern” are relative terms, in the eye of the beholder. But most of the time, flexor tendinitis and shoulder soreness individually shut you down for at least a little while. One after the other in consecutive starts, in the wake of the right side issue, sound like a body crying for a breather, deGrom’s remarkable 0.54 ERA notwithstanding.
Asked whether he regretted pitching deGrom five days after the flexor tendinitis disclosure, Rojas said, “I can’t regret this because everyone was on board,” referring to the Mets’ medical and performance experts as well as deGrom himself. He offered his opinion that the side, flexor tendon and shoulder constitute three different injuries, not part of a whole reflecting a systemic breakdown.
Look, we on the outside can’t match the Mets for proprietary information about deGrom’s body, and the closest I came to getting a medical degree was when I went to a great breakfast place located around the corner from my college’s hospital. Yet it sure seems like some common sense can be applied here: Couldn’t deGrom, who is setting records with his velocity (not his spin rate), benefit from a breather? Couldn’t the Mets, enjoying a comfortable National League East lead, survive a stint without deGrom in the hopes that he’ll be ready for the most important juncture of the season?
“It’s just a bunch of ‘I don’t knows’ right now,” Rojas said, pointing to Thursday’s MRI. The Mets should know already, even before deGrom enters the tube, that their most valuable player will not be around for at least a little while.
“We’ve got to be smart again,” deGrom said, explaining that he lifted himself when the shoulder felt no better from the start of the third inning to its conclusion. One could argue the Mets need to be smarter on the deGrom front, to play a longer game. To no longer confound observers with unnecessary aggressiveness, in order to be more low-maintenance for their ever-passionate fan base.