Cincinnati — Jacob deGrom will start his second rehab start Friday for the St. Lucie Mets at Daytona. Encouragingly, that means deGrom will stay on the five-day schedule as the ace ups his pitching volume and intensity.
DeGrom is expected to pitch 35-40 with three innings on Friday. In his first rehab assignment last Sunday, he struck out five of six batters and threw 24 overs in 1.2 innings.
As for how the Mets feel about the 100-mph fastball that DeGrom threw in his first professional game in a year, well, it’s complicated.
“You see the velocity trend up, you see the injury trend up, so it’s easy to build that correlation, and I think that makes some sense, right?” Mets pitching coach Jeremy Hefner told the Daily. news. “In a competitive environment, it’s hard for a very competitive guy to slow down. I think it’s easy to say, ‘Don’t throw so hard. “But we don’t know the downside of doing that. In fact, it probably hurt him more than a hard throw.”
Hefner has spoken to deGrom about calling back, but in the meantime, the Mets fully expect the ace to throw triple-digit heaters in his season debut. The club does not have enough evidence that his speed is the direct cause of his injury over the past year. Hefner believes the speed issues surrounding deGrom will eventually level off once he gains more experience in the majors.
If the Mets had a list of precautions for deGrom, they’d make sure the right-hander was keeping track of it. But Hefner does like the idea that one day, deGrom will adapt to the pitching skills of veterans like Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. Both Verlander and Scherzer will use their fastballs to sit at 94-95 mph, then pull out the 97-98 mph heaters in high-lever situations or when they feel the need to get out of a jam.
“Compared to those guys, he’s a young man,” Hefner said of deGrom. “It’s simply unprecedented. No one can do what he can. So you really don’t have anything to say objectively, yes, you should slow down. Yes, you should throw 96 [mph].
“I’d rather go out on my own and have a smooth ride and not necessarily overthrow because I don’t think he’s overturning. I think he’s smooth and lets the ball come out of his hands naturally. So I want to continue the process. His body will take care of itself. Get organised and hopefully we can avoid any future harm because there are no guarantees.”
Chris Bassitt will return from the COVID injured list and face the Marlins at Citi Field on Friday. Bassitt (6-5, 4.01 ERA) missed two rounds in the rotation after testing positive for the virus on Friday. Bassett was able to complete his usual bullpen and workload in a week out and away from the team.
“He’s been fine,” Buck Showalter said. “He’s ready. He works very hard.”
Bassett’s return on Friday means Trevor Williams could make one final start in Thursday’s rotation. The spot-starter filled the starting five as the club struggled with injury and instability, but he had an ups and downs adventure as a starter. Williams flew back to New York on Wednesday ahead of the Mets, well-rested for a game against the Marlins, who are 1-4 with a 5.86 ERA in seven games this season.
Upcoming Mets could include Carlos Carrasco (9-4, 4.64 ERA) against Miami on Saturday, Taijuan Walker (7-2, 2.86 ERA) in Sunday’s series finale and Scherzer (5-5 in the series) 1, 2.26 ERA) Monday’s opener against the Warriors in Atlanta. All three pitchers will have an extra day off.
Showalter said his starters will fall where they fall, and he’s not interested in reshuffling the rotation at this time of the season so that either pitcher is facing one team and not the other.
“I just think it’s usually a recipe for ignoring one thing,” Showalter said. “Respect everyone. You can’t make one game more important than another at this stage of the season. Sometimes these things change as you go along, but things you don’t think are challenges on paper are the exact opposite. So you have to think carefully about this approach.”
Easy Night Games
On Wednesday, the Mets played their first holiday night game of the season. The Mets will fly back to New York from Cincinnati late Wednesday night and could arrive at their home around 5 a.m. Thursday. It was followed by Thursday night’s game against the Marlins at Citi Field. Suffice to say, their managers weren’t happy about it.
“I don’t know how they got away with it,” Showalter said Wednesday. “We have absolutely no say in this. Unfortunately, we should be playing a game of the day today. Do you think anyone cares? Everyone has a sad story. The schedule is what it is. Even if you don’t sleep, it’s still making a living good way.
“But it’s not good. It’s not good for the game, frankly. Putting some people at risk and sometimes affecting the level of the game.”
Showalter said the team will be sleepy, lethargic and more prone to injury Thursday after a quick turnaround. The captain said he could continue to reason, but “nobody cares”.