PHILADELPHIA - Mets rookie Jacob deGrom, who has made a surprising run at National League Rookie of the Year honors, returned to New York on Sunday for tests after experiencing lingering soreness in his right shoulder.
The club already has scratched him from his next scheduled start Tuesday, and potential candidates to replace him include top prospects Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero. Syndergaard's next start would fall Tuesday, exactly in line with deGrom.
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If deGrom misses only one start, the Mets could stick with options already on the roster such as righty Carlos Torres, who has made spot starts in the past.
Daisuke Matsuzaka would be eligible to come off the disabled list, though he still is working his way back from elbow inflammation and isn't ready for a start Tuesday. Instead, he will pitch for Class A Port St. Lucie on Monday night.
"We're in the process of determining who's going to make that start," assistant general manager John Ricco said. "Some of it may depend on what we hear tomorrow from the doctors."
DeGrom, 26, downplayed the issue and insisted he could have continued pitching through the soreness. He even reported improvement Sunday, Ricco said. But with the Mets only a short drive from New York, Ricco said deGrom was sent for precautionary tests.
Said Ricco: "We don't want to take any chances."
DeGrom is 6-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 16 starts. Though he has been overshadowed by the likes of Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey, deGrom has been the Mets' top starting pitcher this season.
"I'm calm about it," deGrom said. "I don't think it's going to be serious. I could probably go out there and pitch with it right now. But just talking to them, at this time of the year, it's not really worth pushing it. If I can skip one and be 100 percent and let it calm down, that was kind of what they talked about."
DeGrom said he endured a similar issue in the minors last season, though it was elsewhere in his right shoulder. He said he hadn't had any shoulder issues this year until now.
The Mets have been weighing ways to cap deGrom's innings. He has pitched 1001/3 innings in the big leagues this year in addition to 381/3 in the minors. The Mets want to cap him at about 185 innings.
"This may be, hopefully, a case where if we end up skipping a start, that just helps us with that [innings limit]," Ricco said. "We were talking about doing that anyway. So that may end up being the result of this, where he misses a start and we start managing his workload."
Syndergaard, 21, has had an inconsistent season for Triple-A Las Vegas. He was expected to be promoted as early as June, but injuries sidelined him early in the season. Team officials have been encouraged by his recent outings, during which he has improved upon his secondary offerings.
Syndergaard has a 1.21 ERA in his last four starts and is 8-6 with a 4.79 ERA overall. He has struck out 111 and walked 35 in 107 innings.