Jacob Degrom returns to the pile Tuesday

WASHINGTON — Jacob Degrom is finally back on the hill on Tuesday in Nationals Park. It promises to be a significant event that the Mets, their fans, and rival teams throughout baseball will watch with interest.
How exactly did we get here? It has been an obstacle course for two-time winner Cy Young, who has not featured since July 7, 2021, due to multiple injuries. Primer on setting it up:
What is the nature of degrom’s injury?
He suffered from a stress reaction in his shoulder blade which was diagnosed at the end of March. A stress reaction is essentially an overuse injury, similar to a bone bruise. They take time to heal, because the only real way to do it is to rest them. Degrom believes that ramping up his quick spring training with a minor mechanical defect caused his shoulder injury.
This is a different issue than what Degroom missed last year, when he missed the entire second half of the season due to inflammation in his right elbow. At one point, President Sandy Alderson classified that injury as a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament, which DeGrum disputed. Anyway, his elbow hasn’t been a problem for the better part of the year.
Is he in good health now?
So says the Mets. And before you ask, there’s no way to know if this will last – we just have to wait and see.
Over the past three seasons, DeGrom has often skipped or pushed back due to a string of back, humerus, forearm, elbow and shoulder injuries. If he doesn’t miss any extra time, DeGrom can still make 12 starts over the stretch, plus more in the playoffs. Mets officials fear equal parts skepticism and optimism that he will.
What steps did DeGrom need to take to get to this point?
It was a long progress. For about a month after his diagnosis, DeGrom was limited to strength and resistance-building exercises. He spent another month flat-earth throwing starting in early May, before graduating to work up the hill with squash batting sessions and live batting practice. deGrom eventually began the task of rehabilitating the Minor League on July 3, which was essentially the equivalent of his first game of Spring Training. A slight bout of shoulder soreness during an All-Star break brought Degroom’s schedule back down one last time, but only for a few days.
His last start to rehab was last Wednesday, putting Degroom on five full days of rest to make his debut.
How many stadiums will he throw against the citizens?
During the last rehab start, DeGrom edged out 67 pitches, the most he threw in any game at any level since last July. The Mets will ease things up with him early this month, with coach Jeremy Hefner estimating four to six rounds and 60-80 runs on Tuesday. Mostly, it depends on the stress level of the outing. Were there men at the base? Did he have any long roles? Like this.
Is he still spewing 100 miles per hour? (And is that a good thing?)
During his rehab, Degrom routinely hits 100-101 mph on the radar pistol, which is where he has usually sat for the last few years of his career. DeGrum called about this notably on a recent outing, which manager Buck Showalter said was due to a spasm in his leg. DeGrom painted a different picture, expressing low speed with a deliberate effort to smooth things over while trying to increase his workload.
Given the adrenaline on his first appearance of the season, Degrom will hit three figures again on Tuesday. He and Mets officials have dismissed the notion that permanently lowering the pace could help DeGrom stay healthy, because they believe his elite personalities stem from clean mechanics, not from overtraining or overthrowing him.
When asked if he would hit 101 against the Nationals, DeGrum smiled and replied, “We’ll see.”
How good can we expect it to be?
Maybe good. When healthy, Degrom stayed in a class of his own, starting a 1.08 ERA over 15 years before getting injured last season. He finished third in the Cy Young National League voting in 2020, having won the award in the previous two seasons. Since 2018, the point at which he began scoring career highs in both Fastball and speed slider, DeGrom has a 1.94 ERA with 774 strokes in 581 runs.
In two rounds this spring, DeGrom allowed running in five rounds with 10 strokes. In four rehabs, he produced a 2.84 ERA with 21 hits in 12 2/3 rounds (and most of that damage came in his last start). As long as DeGrom remains healthy, there is no evidence to suggest he will be less than elite.
“I have full expectations that we’ll see a normal Jake,” Hefner said.
What does this mean for his contract status?
Nothing yet. DeGrom remains on a guaranteed contract until 2023, with a $32.5 million salary next year and a $32.5 million team option in 24.
He has the ability to withdraw from his deal after this season, which he has stated on numerous occasions. He also said that his increasing injury history wouldn’t change that account. In financial terms, withdrawing is the obvious step. If DeGrom re-establishes his greatness from August to October, he should easily be able to liquidate $32.5 million in guaranteed money on the open market.
So he left after October?
not necessarily. Oftentimes, withdrawing simply causes players to renegotiate with their old teams. As a recent example, Clayton Kershaw used the no-participation clause as a way to strike a new deal with the Dodgers after the 2018 season. Stephen Strasbourg did the same with the Nationals a year later.
DeGrom has long stated his desire to stay dead for life, but neither he nor the team has shown much interest in negotiating until after this season. At any time, owner Steve Cohen could pounce on deGrom, offer a huge deal and put this entire business to rest. Or, Cohen could move in another direction, understanding the danger DeGrom poses as a costly 34-year-old asset with a long injury history.
At this point, it’s nearly impossible to hinder DeGrum’s chances of returning to the Mets. The way he and the team deal with him in the long run will be important factors in what happens next.

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