If it seemed too good to be true, that’s because it was.
Jacob deGrom made his start Wednesday night, and he was brilliant for three innings, seemingly putting to rest worries that the right flexor tendinitis in his elbow that shortened his outing Friday night would be a recurring issue. He hit 100-mph regularly on his fastball, his slider was crisp, and he even threw in an RBI single.
DeGrom, who’s suffered both from the tendinitis this year, along with two separate back issues, quickly disappeared into the tunnel after three perfect innings with what the Mets are calling right shoulder soreness. Sean Reid-Foley took his place.
There was some indication that something was amiss early on. Although deGrom was dominant, striking out eight of the nine batters he faced, he also allowed some fairly lengthy at bats, and at times didn’t look perfectly at ease on the mound.
Before the game, Luis Rojas said deGrom would be on no pitch count or innings limitations, but would be strictly monitored by himself, pitching coach Jeremy Hefner and the performance team. Rojas also acknowledged that deGrom’s nearly absurd repertoire – a starter consistently throwing 100-mph at nearly 33 – may cause added stress, despite the ace’s tightly-controlled mechanics.
"He creates a lot of force, so I don’t know if it’s something that is causing him some of the tension in some areas sometimes," Rojas said, clarifying though that something like this wasn’t his specialty. "Our pitching coach has really good knowledge of arm care…They have a good feel and they have really good conversations with Jake and anything they see out there or they catch from having a conversation with Jake, I know we’re going to be cautious with him if something happens, but right now we’re confident that he’s ready to go tonight."
It's easy to understand why the Mets thought he was ready. Shortly after being removed Friday, deGrom expressed unequivocal confidence that his flexor tendinitis was nothing to worry about, and that it was in fact something he dealt with routinely in the past. It’s not immediately clear whether the tendinitis in his elbow led to him compensating with his shoulder.
The departure put a pall on what had thus far been a happy night at Citi Field. DeGrom struck out five batters swinging, three looking, and the only on-field out came in the first, when Anthony Rizzo skied a flyball to right that was just barely contained by the confines of Citi Field. In the third, deGrom battled Rafael Ortega for 11 pitches, which included two rarely-used changeups and, finally, a 93-mph backdoor slider to get him looking.
DeGrom was routinely greeted with M-V-P chants, though none as loud as in the second inning, when he was batting against Cubs starter Robert Stock.
With the Mets up by one and Kevin Pillar at second, deGrom worked a full count after going down 0-and-2 and then lined a 98-mph fastball to right for the RBI single; he's now hitting .423. DeGrom then came back in the third to strike out the next three before making his hasty exit.
"We just go with the game, his feedback and also our expertise when it comes down to our performance staff, pitching coach and myself and we’ll make the decision around those," Rojas said of how they’d assess deGrom. "We’re just going to monitor."
Monitor they did. Now to find out how bad they have it.
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