The Mets have a grasp on first place in the NL East and understand that the prime directive has to be holding on to it.
Thus came the decision announced by manager Luis Rojas before Sunday’s game against the Phillies that ace Jacob deGrom would be the team’s starting pitcher three times before the All-Star Game break. The righthander with the astonishing 0.69 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 78 innings over 13 starts this season will next pitch Thursday in Atlanta.
"It’s lined up that way for him to pitch on his [regular rest] so he gets the three starts,’ Rojas said. "We’ll see how he [does] going into [the All-Star Game] and whether he’ll be available or not. But he’s going to give us three starts."
The deGrom start in Atlanta means he will pitch on regular rest and someone in the rotation — perhaps David Peterson — will be skipped this time through. Were deGrom to get the extra day of rest, he could have pitched Friday against the Yankees at the Stadium. But then he’d get one fewer start before the break.
The two tentative starts to follow would be July 6 at home against the Brewers and July 11 at home against the Pirates. The July 11 game is the last before the break. DeGrom would then decide whether to pitch in Denver on July 13.
"We’ll have to see how things go from one start to the other or pitch counts and how he feels," Rojas said. "All that is going to happen before that decision is made, but the good thing is that we are getting him the three starts . . . . that’s the priority for us."
The Mets are expected to activate outfielder Brandon Nimmo from the 10-day injured list for Tuesday’s series opener against Atlanta. Rojas said Nimmo was scheduled to play a full nine innings for Triple-A Syracuse on Sunday, take Monday off and meet the team in Atlanta Tuesday.
Nimmo, the Mets’ leadoff hitter, had a slash line of .317/.430/.439 through 21 games played before he suffered a left index finger injury and went on the IL on May 3. The Mets are 10-8 with Nimmo in the starting lineup.
Offense returning to strength
The Mets’ batting order soon could be back at full strength. Third baseman J.D. Davis, on the IL since the first week of May with a left hand sprain, said he will begin a minor-league rehab assignment on Wednesday with Syracuse. If his ramp-up to the big leagues is like Nimmo’s, he would play about a week’s worth of games before rejoining the big league club.
It should be noted however that when the Mets’ offense was last at full strength, they were a sub-.500 club.
Davis won’t be the only big leaguer on a rehab assignment upstate. Rojas said that infielder Jonathan Villar (right calf strain), catcher Tomas Nido (right wrist contusion) and righthanded reliever Jeurys Familia (right hip impingement) all will be with the Triple-A team as well.
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