PHILADELPHIA — With Jacob deGrom’s Cy Young hopes hanging by a thread — and the Mets’ playoff hopes hanging by a thinner thread — they got good news Thursday when his troublesome right hamstring felt better.
Wearing an athletic sleeve on his right knee, he briefly played catch in leftfield at Citizens Bank Park, a routine task completed under the watchful gazes of head athletic trainer Brian Chicklo and assistant pitching coach Jeremy Accardo.
But deGrom mentioned Wednesday — after leaving his start against the Phillies after just two innings — that his hamstring bothered him while warming up for a start last week and again during the "full intensity" of the game Wednesday, not between outings. So it is not clear what improvement the next few days might mean for his ability to actually pitch.
"The response was actually positive," manager Luis Rojas said of the treatment deGrom received. "Apparently we caught it early."
Rojas added that deGrom is day-to-day. His spot in the rotation comes up again Monday.
"Today it wasn’t doing anything near what he felt yesterday," Rojas said. "We’re going to go off of that. If he tells us … he’s able to throw his side [session], then we can definitely talk about him making his start on the day that he’s able to make his start."
DeGrom, the two-time defending NL Cy Young Award winner, ranks fifth in the league with a 2.09 ERA and fourth with a 0.93 WHIP.
Coming off the field after his catch session, deGrom stopped for a half-hour conversation with former teammate Zack Wheeler, who showed him his own injury issue: a partially torn right middle fingernail.
Steven Matz will indeed return to the rotation, as Rojas previously suggested might be the case, when he starts Friday against the Braves. David Peterson is pushed back to Saturday, the Mets opting to give the rookie lefthander an extra day of rest "not for anything specific," Rojas said.
This is the latest portion of an odd month for Matz, who lost his starter job, made one relief appearance, went on the injured list, returned to the active roster and bullpen, did not make any other relief appearances and now rejoins the rotation.
Matz (8.63 ERA) could get two starts before the regular season ends next weekend, and Rojas said it is a good chance for him to straighten out — and feel good about himself — heading into the winter.
"It would be huge. It would be huge," Rojas said. "He's worked on the things he needed to improve, which is his command, pitch sequencing, everything that he needs to do to attack batters with his stuff and get outs. We feel very good about him getting the ball tomorrow.
"He’s had a really good attitude about everything. Matzy’s got such a great personality. He was obviously disappointed the first time we talked about how he was going to go to the bullpen. A lot of things happened since then, and then he was like, ‘OK, I’ll be ready whenever you need me.’"
Despite multiple requests, the Mets have not made Matz available for an interview since Aug. 30.
When the Mets made baserunning mistakes Tuesday, they had a meeting about it. After they did it again Wednesday, they had another meeting. "We need to keep being aware out there because we are going to create the traffic," Rojas said. "This team can hit and get on base. We've just got to maximize our chances at scoring runs." The Mets’ 20 outs on the bases ranked second in the NL and fourth in the majors entering play Thursday. Their eight outs at third base led everybody . . . The Braves activated No. 1 starter Max Fried, a Cy Young candidate, from the IL on Thursday. He is slated to pitch Friday against the Mets.