All continues to go well in Jacob deGrom’s rehabilitation of the shoulder injury that has kept him out all season, he said, but he didn’t want to venture a public guess as to when he will be back — or even when he might step on a mound in a practice setting.
“I feel completely normal,” deGrom said, later adding that he has felt that way for well over a month. “That’s where it’s going to be, like, do we push it? Do we not? That’ll be the discussion over the next few days and when we get on the mound. What is the safest way to go about this?”
His comments, his first in close to two months, came Saturday afternoon in a hallway outside the Mets’ clubhouse, which he again can consider his office, having physically rejoined the team at the start of this homestand. He spent the first quarter-plus of the season based out of the club’s facility in Port St. Lucie, Florida, recovering from a stress reaction in his right shoulder blade.
The challenge deGrom and the Mets face now — and indefinitely — is how to get him back in the fashion that keeps him healthiest longest. At this careful rate, he will be pushing the one-year anniversary of his most recent game, July 7.
Starts in, say, late June and early July are not as important as those in September and October.
“When you’re trying to decide whether to come back too early or not, you kind of look at the long term,” he said. “The team has been playing really good and you want to be there through the end of the year. Trying to walk that fine line of being safe and not trying to do it too quick.
“It stinks not being out there. That’s what we love doing, competing. I haven’t been able to compete in quite some time. That’s where it’s, like, you want to do probably more than you’re supposed to, but you gotta look at it as: If you go too early, you’re going to end up missing more time. So it’s trying to balance all that.”
But when he does get back, he doesn’t plan to pitch in fear, either, despite a series of arm and back injuries — some of which popped up shortly after he and the Mets deemed him ready to pitch — during the previous two seasons.
“You do your best to prepare and go out there and play the game,” he said. “I don’t think many guys go out there and are scared of getting hurt. You go out there and compete and leave it all out there. I’ve come back from Tommy John [surgery] in the minor leagues. I think that was probably the biggest hurdle, knowing how mentally you say, ‘Hey, I’m fine,’ and you go out there and play the game.”
DeGrom played catch out to 135 feet on Friday. That is close to the long end of the distance pitchers need to reach before advancing to mound work. He said he expects “a discussion in the next couple of days” about when he can take that next significant step.
The good news, according to deGrom, is that he is done with MRIs and other medical imaging, barring further issues. Doctors told him after his most recent round of scans that his shoulder blade is completely healed. And whereas his ligaments and muscles can be finicky, “normally bone heals stronger,” he said.
“So now it’s just making sure it handles the throwing and nothing pops up,” deGrom said. “The way it’s gone so far, I feel great.”