Jacob deGrom was in an empty New York Mets clubhouse Friday afternoon at Citi Field and discussed his comeback from surgery that removed a ulnar nerve from his pitching elbow. He anticipates a strong comeback and come Opening Day Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler are expected be in that same clubhouse.
And if the Mets are expecting to overtake the Nationals in the NL East and play deep into next October, they need that young quartet of their young studs to remain healthy. Wheeler is the question mark with the obstacle of returning from Tommy John Surgery and Harvey is on his offseason plan of recovery after a 4-10 season that was cut short.
No longer will the staff depend on veteran Bartolo Colon and his 15 -wins that led the Metsthis past season, so Wheeler becomes the subject when pitchers and catchers report to Port St. Lucie February 12th.
But deGrom is confident. His arm is healthy and will be ready. The Mets need the righthander and his career 2.74 ERA in 76 career starts. The ERA is tied for the third-lowest in the majors since his debut on May 15, 2004, and that’s in good company with Jon Lester, Clayton Kershaw and Jake Arrieta.
“Anything that happens to your arm, you are not looking forward to it until you know what it is,” he said about finally discovering what led to discomfort in his fingers and led to being shut down after pitching 5.0 innings against the Marlins on September 1st.
Of course the Mets were cautious. Manager Terry Collins watched the pitch count, the velocity of his fastball, and when deGrom walked four and threw 102 pitches there was that conclusion of something not being right.
He said, there is now a “Piece of mind.” And for the Mets that is good news because deGrom, as the Mets and their fans know, was one of those young studs on the mound in that unexpected run to the World Series in 2015.
“Health is the biggest thing everybody wants to do,” deGrom said. “Stay out there and be out there every fifth day to compete. Harvey. Me, Matz, and Wheeler, everybody wants to compete at their best and be out their everyday.”
The lone exception to this of course was Noah Syndergaard, though concern of a spur on his pitching elbow saw the righthander miss a few starts. Again, that was a precautionary move by the Mets to prevent further discomfort and Syndergaard went on finish a 14-9 season with a 2.60 ERA.
So, even with the return of Yoenis Cespedes, who deGrom is elated to have back, the Mets are dependent on the health and well-being of their young studs on the mound. One National League scout said. Cespedes was a key but the Mets are in good hands provided their pitchers return to form.
And with half a season under their belt, Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman are two more right handers that can fill the void that give the Mets some options.
“It doesn’t bother me,” deGrom said about the fingers and elbow.
And for the Mets that is a good sign. They need his innings and the strikeouts, as 492 of them through the first 76 career starts are the third most for a Mets starter in team history.
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