The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
Mets ace deGrom shut down after season of injuries
NEW YORK — After toying with the possibility that Jacob deGrom could return to the mound this season, the Mets revealed ahead of their last week of games he will be shut down for the remainder of the year.
DeGrom had been dealing with a partial tear in his right elbow in the second half of the season.
“At this time, there’s no point for him to pitch in a game,” Luis Rojas said on Tuesday before the team’s doubleheader sweep of the Marlins. “He’s just going to shut it down for the season and focus on his offseason routine. Take some time off, then start his progression.
“He was fine to pitch, but at this point it just doesn’t make any sense for him to go out there and compete. He’s not going to pitch.”
DeGrom threw a bullpen session on Monday that checked off “all the boxes for us,” Rojas said. So the team’s choice to shut him down was not a result of a setback, but rather a timing issue, the skipper indicated. The Mets expect deGrom to undergo a “normal offseason” and return to spring training “as the Jake that we all know,” Rojas said.
DeGrom hasn’t pitched for the Mets since July 7 against the Brewers at Citi Field. Then, the Mets had a 41⁄2-game first-place lead in the NL East that they soon squandered without their ace starter. This past weekend, the Mets were eliminated from playoff contention with nine games left to play, after which the team decided it made no sense for deGrom to continue ramping up.
“Jake is fully on board,” Rojas said of his reaction once the team decided to shut him down from pitching.
DeGrom last spoke to reporters earlier this month, but he did not provide an update on his injury other than to say his “ligament is perfectly fine.” Team president Sandy Alderson revealed for the first time in Miami this month that deGrom had actually sustained a partial tear of his UCL in his right elbow, but that the injury had “resolved itself.” Prior to Alderson’s reveal, or slip up, the Mets had referred to deGrom’s injury as “elbow inflammation” or “elbow tightness.”
The right-hander was shut down from throwing in July, right after the AllStar break, to the end of August. After about six weeks of inactivity, deGrom was cleared to start playing catch while the Mets had already given up their firstplace lead and dug themselves into a hole. Still, deGrom progressed only so far. He threw four bullpen sessions, two from midslope and two off the rubber, before the Mets announced Tuesday he will not throw again this season.
“I’ve been throwing,” deGrom said on Sept. 9. “So I don’t think, you know, I wouldn’t be throwing if I had a compromised ligament. That’s the plan, to continue to throw and build up and see where we end up. And that’s all I’m going to say.”
Rojas stated the obvious on Tuesday, that deGrom would be pitching for the Mets if they were still in a pennant race. His next step would’ve involved facing batters, and his first start back could’ve been in the team’s final series of the year Friday in Atlanta.
So that’s a wrap on deGrom’s frustrating year pockmarked by injuries.
The Mets ace departed for the IL after a tremendous first half. DeGrom led MLB in ERA (1.08) and WHIP (0.554) in 15 starts and 92 innings. He was well on his way to locking down his third Cy Young award in four years before a slew of injuries, some believed to be caused by swinging the bat, disrupted an otherwise historical season.
Incredible seasons are nothing new for deGrom — he has a 1.94 ERA in 91 starts and 581 innings since 2018 — but this many maladies in the span of a season are certainly unusual for the righty.
DeGrom’s sprained right UCL is the fifth different injury he sustained this year. DeGrom clarified in July that his previous four injuries — back stiffness, right lat and side tightness, right flexor tendinitis and right shoulder soreness — were the result of taking hacks at the plate. He said, then, that his second-half elbow injury was not the result of hitting.
The Mets were unable to identify what caused deGrom’s elbow issues that stopped him from pitching in July. The ace was open to the idea that it could be the result of throwing harder than ever in his age-33 season. DeGrom was averaging 98.9 mph on his fastball and throwing harder than any other starting pitcher in baseball.
If the 6-foot-4, 180-pound pitcher is in fact cleared to enjoy his usual offseason routine, it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to his injury-filled 2021 season once he returns to spring training next February.