After what is going to have been a wait of 391 days, top-of-the-line pitchers in baseball is finally expected to take the mound in a significant league game. Jacob deGrom, a two-time winner of the National League’s Cy Young Award, who last pitched for the Mets on July 7, 2021, is scheduled to make his return from injury Tuesday night against the Nationals in Washington.
Within the 2021 season, in what had felt like his best 12 months yet, deGrom missed the ultimate three months with an elbow injury in his throwing arm. He reported to 2022 spring training healthy, but days before the season opener, he landed on the injured list again, this time with a stress response in his right shoulder blade.
Finally healthy, and armed with a plan to remain that way, deGrom met with reporters Sunday ahead of his season debut. He told them that “it didn’t take long” for his shoulder to feel good again, but that he and the Mets’ training staff took a deliberate approach in constructing him back up.
“We checked out why we thought it happened with the fast ramp-up,” he said, alluding to the delayed and protracted spring training brought on by the labor dispute between Major League Baseball owners and the players’ union. “We played it protected by taking extra days and ensuring every thing was where we wanted it. That way, there have been no setbacks.”
DeGrom, who had a 1.08 earned run average over 92 innings last 12 months, told reporters he was confident he could stay healthy for the remaining of this season. He added, “Every little thing has healed, and I felt good throughout the entire process.”
He also reiterated his expectation that he would exercise the opt-out clause in his five-year, $137.5 million contract extension, leaving aside the $30.5 million owed in 2023 for the prospect at netting a bigger deal.
DeGrom, 34, returns to a Mets team that continues to be in first place within the N.L. East after a 9-3 win Sunday over the Miami Marlins but that has seen its lead over the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves shrink to 3 games.
First baseman Pete Alonso, who collected his eighty fifth run batted in Sunday, has been a consistent shiny spot on offense, and the Mets welcomed back their other ace when Max Scherzer returned from the injured list in early July. But even with things coming together for the team, the front office, which has added a couple of minor pieces, could also be energetic again ahead of the M.L.B. trade deadline on Tuesday.
“Definitely excited,” deGrom told reporters. “It’s been a protracted time. This has been a reasonably slow strategy of coming back. Excited to be on the market. Nerves haven’t really set in yet, but I’m sure Tuesday I’ll be pretty nervous, and I actually have a sense it’s going to feel like my debut.”