After what will have been a wait of 391 days, one of the best pitchers in baseball is finally expected to take the mound in a major league game. Jacob deGrom, a two-time winner of the National League’s Cy Young Award, who last pitched for the Mets on July 7, 2021, is scheduled to make his return from injury Tuesday night against the Nationals in Washington.
In the 2021 season, in what had felt like his best year yet, deGrom missed the final three months with an elbow injury in his throwing arm. He reported to 2022 spring training healthy, but days before the season opener, he 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 with reporters Sunday ahead of 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’ training staff took a deliberate approach in building him back up.
“We looked at why we thought it happened with the quick ramp-up,” he said, alluding to the delayed and protracted spring training caused by the labor dispute between Major League Baseball owners and the players’ union. “We played it safe by taking extra days and making sure everything was where we wanted it. That way, there were no setbacks.”
DeGrom, who had a 1.08 earned run average over 92 innings last year, told reporters he was confident he could stay healthy for the rest of this season. He added, “Everything has healed, and I felt good throughout the whole process.”
He also reiterated his expectation that he would exercise the opt-out clause in his five-year, $137.5 million contract extension, leaving aside the $30.5 million owed in 2023 for the chance at netting a larger deal.
DeGrom, 34, returns to a Mets team that remains in first place in the N.L. East after a 9-3 win Sunday over the Miami Marlins but that has seen its lead over the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves shrink to three games.
First baseman Pete Alonso, who collected his 85th run batted in Sunday, has been a consistent bright spot on offense, and the Mets welcomed back their other ace when Max Scherzer returned from the injured list in early July. But even with things coming together for the team, the front office, which has added a few minor pieces, may be active again ahead of the M.L.B. trade deadline on Tuesday.
“Definitely excited,” deGrom told reporters. “It’s been a long time. This has been a pretty slow process of coming back. Excited to be out there. Nerves haven’t really set in yet, but I’m sure Tuesday I’ll be pretty nervous, and I have a feeling it’s going to feel like my debut.”