Jacob deGrom could return to rotation on Saturday

Mets leftfielder Eric Young Jr. catches a fly
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Mets leftfielder Eric Young Jr. catches a fly ball hit by the Oakland Athletics' Stephen Vogt in the first inning of their interleague baseball game Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014, in Oakland, Calif.(Credit: AP / Eric Risberg)

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OAKLAND, Calif. - Jacob deGrom stood atop the pitcher's mound Tuesday afternoon in the cavernous Coliseum. His teammates came to the plate wearing T-shirts and shorts. The gates had yet to open, so except for other players, the place was empty.

Still, deGrom felt his adrenaline spike, especially when he tried to calm himself so he could throw changeups.

"I threw a couple of good ones," deGrom said, shortly after facing hitters for the first time since going on the disabled list. "A couple I rushed. But I do that in the game sometimes."

By this weekend against the Dodgers, deGrom will no longer have to subsist on throwing sessions. The promising rookie could rejoin the rotation as soon as Saturday, said manager Terry Collins, who offered the latest indication that deGrom is past the soreness in his right shoulder.

"Right now, he's on schedule to pitch on Saturday," Collins said. "He threw today, he threw absolutely great."

DeGrom, 26, is eligible to come off the disabled list on Saturday. His rehab has gone smoothly enough that he treated Tuesday's throwing session as if he were preparing for a start.

"Today, I kind of approached that like maybe kind of a start day," deGrom said. "And then, I might throw off the mound again before I actually make a start again. That would be a light bullpen. So, yeah, I'm trying to get into a routine like I'm starting."

For the first time since going on the DL, deGrom threw all of the pitches in his repertoire.

"There was definitely more adrenaline than when I throw in just a regular bullpen," he said. "When somebody steps in there, the competitiveness kind of takes over."

A return to the rotation would allow deGrom to resume a standout rookie year. In 16 starts, deGrom is 6-5 with a 2.87 ERA, the lowest mark in the rotation. He arguably has been the club's top starting pitcher.

Assuming that he returns this weekend, deGrom can shift his focus toward pitching through until the end of the season, while avoiding a shutdown because of a cap on his innings.

The Mets intend to keep deGrom from exceeding 185 innings this season. Including his stint at Triple-A Las Vegas, deGrom has thrown 1382/3 innings.

"I'm fully expecting that I'm fine, and I'm planning to pitch to the end of the year," deGrom said. "I'm hoping I don't run out of innings before that."

To keep deGrom within his innings limit, the Mets had been weighing several options, including sending him to the bullpen temporarily or even skipping a few of his starts. But deGrom's stay on the disabled list appears to have negated the team's need to manipulate his workload.

If deGrom returns this weekend, he will have missed just two starts, while remaining in position to complete the season.

"Either way, I was going to have to miss a few starts," deGrom said. "This came at a good time. I got a little rest and now I feel good. Hopefully, [I can] just finish strong."

While he said he's eager to rejoin the rotation, deGrom also sounded mindful about pushing too hard for a quick return.

"I'm ready to get out there," deGrom said. "But like we talked about, we don't want to rush it and [have] something happen. But everything is going as planned right now. I'll just do what they tell me."

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