It was the sigh of relief heard through all of Flushing.
A day after Jacob deGrom exited his start against Arizona with lower back tightness, an MRI found no structural damage. The Mets, though, will take no chances with their ace, who’s well on pace to have another Cy Young Award-caliber season. They will place deGrom on the injured list Tuesday, retroactive to Monday.
The club is terming the injury "right side tightness."
A corresponding move will be announced Tuesday. Because deGrom is going on the IL, the Mets will be able to choose between every player on the 40-man roster, including ones they optioned fewer than 10 days ago.
Thanks to the off day Monday and one Thursday bracketing a two-game series against the Orioles, deGrom might miss only one start — that is, if his recovery continues to progress. A return after this setback would put him on track for the series against the Marlins that begins on May 21.
Before Sunday’s game, deGrom missed a start with right lat inflammation. The Mets ordered an MRI then, too, but found nothing further amiss.
Manager Luis Rojas said Sunday that he did not believe that the lat injury and back injury are connected, or that deGrom was trying to compensate for a side that hadn’t fully healed by putting more pressure on his back.
"I talked to him every day just to make sure he was going through the steps" in his original recovery, Rojas said. "The first steps were the two days off before he played catch, then he did that and then played catch, felt good, threw the side, and then he played catch again [Saturday] and every day he had been feeling good. [He felt] nothing — no feedback on any tightness or anything. Everyone was confident — especially him."
DeGrom was perfect through four innings Sunday against the Diamondbacks but could be seen on the mound at various junctures grimacing.
An uncharacteristic fifth inning indicated something was wrong, with deGrom walking three batters after allowing only four walks in his previous five starts. He threw two warm-up pitches before the sixth inning, then shook his head grimly and summoned trainer Brian Chicklo.
Rojas also said the way Sunday’s game played out might have taken a toll on a healing player. DeGrom not only had a difficult fifth inning but bunted for a hit and ran the bases.
"We don’t know exactly what happened," Rojas said. "We know he had that long inning, the stressful inning, he ran the bases. I mean, he was moving. He did a lot of things on both ends, pitching and the offense as well, and that’s what he told us. I think it was right that he told us and didn’t pitch through it."
DeGrom has been nearly untouchable this season. His average fastball velocity is 99 mph and he routinely has hit 100 mph — the hardest he’s thrown in his career.
His 0.68 ERA is tops in baseball and he has 65 strikeouts in 40 innings. He leads MLB in a slew of other categories: fewest hits allowed per nine innings (3.825), fewest hits and walks per innings pitched (0.600), strikeouts per nine innings (14.625) and FIP (1.12).
DeGrom has been quite durable in his career, throwing more than 200 innings in 2017, 2018 and 2019 and starting no fewer than 31 games in each of those seasons.
DeGrom has mostly avoided prolonged IL stints in the past, though he has had recurring issues with his back, neck and elbow. This is only his fourth time heading to the IL in his eight-year career (the other three times were for elbow issues). He did undergo Tommy John surgery when he was in the minors.
Jacob deGrom’s previous IL stints
Sept. 21-Oct. 2, 2016: Elbow
May 3-13, 2018: Elbow
April 16-26, 2019: Elbow
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