CINCINNATI - The ballroom session with the National League All-Stars was winding down yesterday after 45 minutes of Jacob deGrom sitting alone under his name card, and the occasional reporter or two stopping by to chat.
DeGrom is a huge deal in Flushing, but on the national stage, he's still developing a brand, as they say. His podium didn't quite get the attention of a Kershaw, Bumgarner or Scherzer.
But as the room emptied, a familiar face approached, hand outstretched. It was former Mets general manager Omar Minaya, who drafted deGrom in 2010, coming over to congratulate him. The two chatted for a few minutes, with Minaya advising him to soak up as much of the experience as he can.
"I just told him good luck," Minaya said, "and that we're proud of you."
Now that deGrom indeed is an All-Star, the only Mets representative this year, it's a matter of whether he'll get to pitch. NL manager Bruce Bochy hadn't spoken to him yet about it -- announcing only Tuesday night's starter, the Dodgers' Zack Greinke -- but deGrom is right on schedule to pitch.
Thanks to the Mets' six-man rotation, deGrom's regular turn to pitch is Tuesday, so it wouldn't involve the usual adjustments to be ready.
With so much invested in the pitching staff this season -- and the setbacks involving Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz -- it would be understandable if the Mets were leery of having any of them pitch in the All-Star Game.
But deGrom said that concern was never voiced, and he seemed to enjoy the buildup to Tuesday night, even if it was a bit overwhelming.
"Just being around these guys, they're the best players in the league," he said. "Seeing how they go about their business. I'm honored to be here."
Two years ago, the Mets had Matt Harvey start the All-Star Game at Citi Field, a dream situation for the franchise before the August nightmare of his UCL tear. Now, with Harvey still working his way back from Tommy John surgery, deGrom has established himself as the ace, but he insists any competition is something that exists only outside the lines.
"I think it's more supportive with us," deGrom said of the Mets' rotation. "When I'm in the dugout watching them, I'm probably one of the biggest cheerleaders. I like to see what they're doing during their outing, see how they're getting outs and go from there."
That formula is working pretty well for both deGrom and the Mets. He is 9-6 with a 2.14 ERA, and now it's about his first real turn on the big stage, which he talked about with Harvey before showing up in Cincinnati. Said deGrom, "His advice was just to have fun."
Before getting back to work Friday.
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