Before anyone freaks out over Jacob deGrom’s one-inning cameo Sunday in the Mets’ 4-2 loss to the Phillies, the team’s ace insisted he was physically sound afterward. The hyperextended right elbow or biceps soreness or whatever diagnosis the Mets ultimately settled on apparently had vanished.
We’ll just have to trust deGrom on that, because he’s been pretty straightforward about injury stuff. Despite talking his way back into the May 2 start — after the swing that began this whole drama — deGrom is not one to be reckless with his health. Not to name names, but he’s never ducked an MRI tube, for example.
What we witnessed Sunday at Citizens Bank Park, however, was not the most comforting development for the Mets, and the timing could not have been worse. After waiting 11 days to get their No. 1 back on the mound, seeing deGrom gradually disintegrate in a 45-pitch flurry was a serious momentum-killer.
“I felt fine,” deGrom said. “That’s what was frustrating. My first pitch of the game missed by four feet.”
The explanation? “Rusty” after the time away.
The Mets, in an uncharacteristic move for them, chose to give deGrom extra rest by putting him on the disabled list and having him skip a turn in the rotation. That wasn’t the plan initially, and only after sitting on the decision for a few more days did they come to that conclusion.
With a clean MRI and a pain-free bullpen session, maybe deGrom would have been sharper if the Mets had just left him on schedule. But you can’t have it both ways. We’ve buried the Mets in the past for rushing players back from injuries — or pushing them to the breaking point — so their decision to be safe rather than potentially sorry with deGrom was the smart course of action.
And if the extended layoff wound up messing with his ability to locate pitches, that’s just a casualty of the process.
Unfortunately, the Mets aren’t the most patient team these days, having slipped to 19-18 after an 11-1 start, and they could have used another one of deGrom’s dominant efforts to calm things down a little.
Instead, the biggest impact deGrom had on Sunday’s game was forcing Mickey Callaway to stitch together seven innings from his bullpen, and that’s not a successful scenario very often.
Callaway probably began sweating on this unseasonably cool afternoon as soon as deGrom walked the first three Phillies — on 24 pitches — and didn’t get an out until he whiffed Rhys Hoskins with pitch No. 30.
Incredibly, deGrom escaped without a run. He made a very athletic play on Carlos Santana’s tapper to the left of the mound, scooping the grounder and firing home to get the forceout. With the bases still full, deGrom battled Mai kel Franco for a 10-pitch at-bat, whiffing him with a 92-mph slider.
Forty-five pitches, yet no runs and no hits. Enough to keep the Mets in the game, but not deGrom, who didn’t have his usual finishing stuff to put away hitters. The Phillies fouled off 20 pitches during that first inning and had only four swings-and-misses, none on the fastball, according to BrooksBaseball.net.
The fact that deGrom survived without any damage had little effect on Callaway’s decision to remove him after that first inning. Once deGrom got over 40 pitches, it was automatic in the manager’s mind to take him out, cemented by deGrom coming off the disabled list.
“You can’t do that with anybody,” Callaway said. “You can’t send him back out there. If it takes 40 pitches to get through an inning, you’re probably not going to be effective that day anyway.”
When Callaway told deGrom, the pitcher understood, even if he didn’t necessarily agree. But that’s the reaction you’d expect from someone who gets the ball only every fifth day. Or in this case, on the 11th.
“I was kind of surprised,” deGrom said. “I like to think I would have figured it out, but who knows.”
As painful as that was for the Mets, better to eliminate the uncertainty. And presumably have deGrom back on his regular turn next time, for a longer stay.
First and (real) long
Jacob deGrom pitched just one inning in his return Sunday, and it was a doozy: 45 pitches, 20 foul balls . . . but no runs.
Cesar Hernandez: 7-pitch walk
(Passed ball, Hernandez to 2nd)
Aaron Altherr: 8-pitch walk
Odubel Herrera: 9-pitch walk
Rhys Hoskins: 6-pitch strikeout
Carlos Santana: 5-pitch groundout, Hernandez out at home
Maikel Franco: 10-pitch strikeout
deGrom’s line: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 2 K