CHICAGO — Jacob deGrom’s fastball is popping at or near triple digits on the radar gun, and his secondary pitches are crisp. Another tune up awaits him next week, and then it could be go time at Citi Field for the Mets ace.
“He’s getting there,” Mets pitching coach Jeremy Hefner said Friday, a day after deGrom fired four innings and allowed an unearned run for Triple-A Syracuse against Jacksonville. “Now it’s just about building up. He’s got the command, his stuff is coming out well and crispness and the offspeed pitches. It’s all there. Now we just have to make sure he’s built up properly.”
DeGrom was removed after 42 pitches in his latest outing, having completed four innings for the first time. With the minor leagues dark during the All-Star break, the Mets are planning a simulated game for deGrom that would stretch him to about 60 pitches before he would be considered for the major league rotation.
The right-hander, rehabbing most recently from a stress reaction on his right scapula, last pitched for the Mets in the regular season on July 7, 2021.
Hefner was asked if he has seen any red flags during deGrom’s three rehab starts.
“There’s little things that go on with all pitchers, even guys that are healthy and on the team, like little mechanical stuff that you work on,” Hefner said. “Outside the normal tune ups there hasn’t been anything. We still have to take it day by day and see how he is feeling.”
As for the possibility deGrom will return during the homestand following the All-Star break — team officials have discussed July 24 (against San Diego) and July 26 (Subway Series) as possibilities — Hefner doesn’t yet want to look that far ahead.
“It just depends on how he feels,” Hefner said. “It’s just one of those things where he could get another rehab start in Triple-A or Double-A or something and then five days later or six days later that could be the day [with the Mets].”
The Mets already have a formidable rotation, which includes Max Scherzer, Taijuan Walker, Chris Bassitt, Carlos Carrasco and David Peterson. The Mets began Friday ranked ninth in MLB with a 3.79 ERA from starting pitchers. In July, that unit has pitched to a 2.55 ERA.
DeGrom’s looming return will only bolster Hefner’s confidence in the rotation.
“You are adding one of the greatest pitchers of all-time to your team,” Hefner said of the two-time Cy Young award winner. “We are going to be excited and I think it’s a credit to kind of what we have built here over the last couple of years, what [Peterson] has been able to do and Trevor [Williams], and ultimately it’s a credit to them and the hard work they have put in to go out and put their best foot forward.
“We are going to need those guys, regardless of Jake or anyone else. You have to have 20 pitchers to win a championship and not all 20 of them are going to be on the roster at the same time, but they are just as valuable. They bring different things.”
Hefner said he hasn’t been surprised by anything he has seen from his starters to this point.
“These guys have pretty substantial track records of being consistent major league starters,” he said. “Not necessarily dominant every time out, but consistent and I think that is what we have done. We don’t get blown out. By and large we have been in almost every game and give our offense a chance to put up some runs and I think that has been part of our success and the bullpen has been great.”