After what will have been a 391-day wait, one of baseball’s best pitchers is set to finally take the mound in a major league game. Two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, who last pitched for the Mets on July 7, 2021, is expected to return from injury Tuesday night against the Nationals in Washington.
In the 2021 season, in what had looked like his best year yet, deGrom missed the final three months with a throwing arm elbow injury. He showed up for spring training 2022 healthy, but days before the season opener landed on the injured list again, this time with a stress reaction in his right shoulder blade.
Finally healthy and armed with a plan to stay that way, deGrom met journalists Sunday before his season debut. He told them that “it didn’t take long” for his shoulder to feel good again, but that he and the Mets coaching staff took a deliberate approach to rebuilding it.
“We looked at why we thought this happened with the rapid ramp-up,” he said, alluding to the delayed and prolonged spring training caused by the labor dispute between the owners of the Major. League Baseball and the Players Union. “We played it safe by taking extra days and making sure everything was where we wanted it to be. That way there were no setbacks.”
DeGrom, who had a 1.08 ERA over 92 innings last year, told reporters he was confident he could stay healthy for the rest of this season. He added: “Everything healed and I felt great throughout the process.”
He also reaffirmed that he expected him to would exercise the opt-out clause in his five-year, $137.5 million contract extension, setting aside the $30.5 million due in 2023 for a chance at a bigger deal.
DeGrom, 34, returns to a Mets team that remains in first place in the NL East but has seen its lead over defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves shrink. The Mets welcomed another key contributor to the pitching rotation, Max Scherzer, from the disabled list in early July. And the front office, which added a few minor items to the roster, could be active again ahead of MLB’s trade deadline on Tuesday.
“Certainly excited,” deGrom told reporters. “It’s been a long time. It’s been quite a slow process to come back. Excited to be there. The nerves haven’t really settled in yet, but I’m sure Tuesday I’ll be quite nervous and I feel that this will be like my beginnings.