Mets ace Jacob deGrom enters minor league rehab and retires five of six batters faced

New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom made his first minor league rehab start on Sunday since suffering a stress reaction to his right shoulder during spring training. DeGrom was expected to go 25 pitches or two innings against the Jupiter Hammerheads (Marlins) at Clover Park in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

“He hit all the benchmarks, and we’re happy with that,” Mets manager Buck Showalter told MLB.com on Saturday. “We’ll see how he does on Sunday, and we’ll see if there are any adjustments to our schedule. We know where that could take us.”

Performance certainly wasn’t an issue Saturday as deGrom faced six batters, striking out five and hitting the other with an errant pitch. He needed 24 pitches to go through his 1 2/3 innings, with 18 of those pitches being strikes. He was firing up the radar gun, going over 100 miles per hour six times and averaging 99 miles per hour with his quad. He was also effective with his cutter, throwing it eight times and getting five hits (all of them missed). It should be noted, of course, that it was against Class A hitters who aren’t used to seeing pitchers of deGrom’s caliber.

Sunday’s outing begins deGrom’s minor league 30-day rehab clock. The Mets can activate it anytime during those 30 days, but the last it can be activated is August 1 (unless there’s a setback). It’s the day before the trade deadline, so the Mets will either have their ace back in the fold or they’ll know they need to complete their pitching squad before the deadline.

Max Scherzer missed nearly seven weeks with an oblique injury and will join the rotation on Tuesday. The Mets have only three starting pitchers on their active roster at this time. Here is the team rotation depth chart:

  1. RHP Jacob deGrom (on minor league rehab assignment)
  2. RHP Max Scherzer (on the disabled list, will be activated on Tuesday)
  3. RHP Chris Bassitt (on the COVID list)
  4. RHP Tylor Megill (on 60-day injured list with sprained shoulder)
  5. RHP Taijuan Walker
  6. RHP Carlos Carrasco
  7. RHP Trevor Williams
  8. LHP David Peterson (on paternity list)

DeGrom turned 34 last month and he hasn’t played an MLB game in nearly a calendar year now. His last major league appearance was on July 7, when he held the Milwaukee Brewers to two runs in seven innings. He was placed on the disabled list with a forearm problem shortly thereafter. When he showed up to camp this spring, he said the forearm was “perfectly well.”

Prior to last year’s injury, deGrom was having a buoyant season, pitching at a 1.08 ERA with 146 strikeouts in 15 starts and 92 innings. He said he would retire from the final year and have $30.5 million left on his contract after the season. Seeing how the Mets gave Scherzer three years and $130 million at age 37, deGrom is poised to cash in well even with that injury.

Clover Park in Part St. Lucie is the Mets’ spring training home and where deGrom did the majority of his rehab work. He began his throwing program in May, after a series of MRIs showed good healing progress in his shoulder.

The Mets are 49-30, and their NL East had been reduced from 10½ games on June 1 to just 3½ games on July 4 against the Braves.

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