The New York Mets are currently 60-37 — first place in the NL East — despite the fact that their best pitcher, two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom hasn’t pitched a single game for them all year. DeGrom has been nursing a series of injuries, particularly with his shoulder, for more than a year now. The light at the end of the tunnel is burning bright, though. DeGrom made his fourth rehab appearance today. Prior to today’s matchup against the Omaha Storm Chasers, deGrom had done well in his other appearances. Through 8.2 innings with Triple-A affiliate Syracuse and Single-A club St. Lucie, deGrom had allowed just five hits, one walk, and one run while striking out 15. Everything came crashing down today though.
Brutal! DeGrom allowed two dingers in the second inning — a solo shot to Brewer Hicklen and a three-run dinger to Drew Waters. Waters has never spent time in the Majors. Hicklen has. He appeared in parts of six games for the Royals this year, mainly as a pinch-runner and defensive substitute. He did have four plate appearances though. He struck out all four times.
DeGrom doesn’t like to give up homers, let alone multiple homers. In fact, over the entirety of his eight-year MLB career, he’s only allowed multiple home runs in the same game 21 times, most recently in his last MLB start. On July 7, 2021, deGrom pitched seven innings of two-run ball against the Milwaukee Brewers and gave up home runs to Luis Urias and Jace Peterson. However, in this instance against Omaha, deGrom surrendered both round-trippers in the same inning, something he hasn’t done since 2019, when both Freddie Freeman and Josh Donaldson took deGrom deep in the bottom of the ninth inning of what would wind up being a 10-2 Mets win.
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The last time deGrom allowed two bombs in the same frame it was the bottom of the ninth, in a game that was already won (10-0 before the homers), and they were off the bats of two MVPs. Yeah, we’ll let that one slide. But two minor leaguers? Nuh-uh. That’s not okay, and Mets fans seem very weary.
Sure, the five strikeouts are nice, but what’s more worrisome to Mets’ supporters are the runs. The first dinger came on a breaking ball — likely a slider, deGrom’s favorite pitch — that was supposed to be low-and-away based on where the catcher was setting up. DeGrom missed his spot up and it wound up crossing the middle of the plate belt high. Hanging curves get destroyed no matter what level you’re playing at. That kind of stuff happens. Best not to be too worried about it.
The second homer was more of the same, though slightly more worrisome. There were two outs in the inning with runners on second and third, meaning deGrom had a base open. He throws what appears to be a changeup that’s supposed to be low and out of the zone yet stays belt high and gets blasted. You cannot miss your spot with two men in scoring position. You just can’t. It’s the first pitch of the at-bat, and you know the hitter is likely going to be swinging at the first pitch he sees that hangs in the strike zone because it’s likely the pitcher would want to nibble the corners with the base open. That’s exactly what Waters does, and he makes deGrom pay. The changeup looked flat and didn’t really have any drop too. That’s another scary sight for Mets fans.
At the end of the day though, it shouldn’t matter how deGrom does in his rehab outings. All that matters is how comfortable the ball feels coming out of deGrom’s hand. Sure, there will be some hiccups in his recovery, but as long as deGrom doesn’t feel any discomfort in his shoulder and each one of his pitches feels good rolling off his fingers, then Mets fans should be excited to see deGrom back on the mound, even if he’s giving up more runs than usual. I know some people are worried about deGrom’s velocity in this outing (he was throwing 95-97 when he’s usually hovering around 100), but it’s likely that deGrom’s trainers have told him to take it easy in his rehab starts, not to put too much stress on his shoulder, so it wouldn’t surprise me if deGrom isn’t putting everything he has behind his fastballs.
DeGrom was the most dominant pitcher in baseball prior to this series of injuries. While there is always cause for concern for a player returning from injury, we’ve also seen numerous instances where a pitcher comes back without losing a step. I have no reason to believe he won’t return to dominance once he returns to the Majors. So, make like Mindy from the SpongeBob SquarePants movie and believe a little bit.