The slight breeze you felt was a large exhale from Mets personnel in Florida.
These things of course can change quickly, and the Mets will want to see how he feels Friday, but Jacob deGrom appears to be OK.
DeGrom, whose rehab assignment hit its first known speed bump this week, threw 60 pitches in a simulated game in Port St. Lucie on Thursday and reported feeling good, the Mets said. The Post’s Mike Puma reported the club was encouraged with how upbeat the superstar sounded after the outing.
In his previous rehab start, deGrom had thrown 42 pitches through four innings, and manager Buck Showalter has said they want him stretched out to at least five innings before he makes his 2022 debut. Perhaps 60 pitches qualifies.
The sim game was his fourth rehab “start” and the first and only one away from public eyes during a break in the minor league schedule and after a health scare delayed the outing by two days.
DeGrom’s rehab had gone smoothly until Sunday, when the Mets said he experienced “mild muscle soreness around his shoulder.” DeGrom’s simulated game, which had been scheduled for Tuesday, instead was pushed back to Thursday. The club said deGrom played catch Monday and Tuesday without incident.
The slight setback put him out of discussion for the upcoming series at Citi Field against the Padres. It is possible he makes his season debut Tuesday or Wednesday against the Yankees, though the Mets may be especially cautious following the shoulder soreness.
DeGrom has not stepped foot on a major league mound in over a year. Forearm and elbow injuries ended his 2021 campaign in early July — he had been a Cy Young favorite before the missed time and finished with a 1.08 ERA — and he reported to camp this year saying he felt well.
The righty lasted five Grapefruit League innings before he felt discomfort behind his right shoulder, and an MRI exam found a stress reaction on his right scapula that would not allow him to throw for four weeks.
To some, the diagnosis included some comfort: It was not an aggravation of a previous injury or a soft tissue-type setback that might need surgery. The feeling was, once it healed, he would be OK.
“The good news is here, there is nothing structurally wrong here, as far as the rotator cuff, as far as anything like that is concerned,” GM Billy Eppler said at the time. “But we are dealing with a bone issue and when you deal with bone, they calcify. The healing characteristics will take care of themselves, so I think that is a positive we walk away with.”
DeGrom began throwing again in May, was back on the mound in June and began his rehab assignment early this month. He had been his usual, dominant self in three rehab starts with Single-A St. Lucie and Triple-A Syracuse, when his fastball regularly registered 100 mph. In 8 ²/₃ innings, he did not allow an earned run and struck out 15 with one walk. There were no radar readings or approximated results provided by the Mets after Thursday’s outing.
After his second rehab start, deGrom said he hopes to “be in the big leagues before too long.”
“It’s step by step, but I’ve been following the process, how it was laid out and just trying not to do too much,” deGrom told reporters in Florida on July 8. “Everything feels good.”
Despite deGrom’s issues and Max Scherzer being sidelined by an oblique strain that held him to 11 first-half starts, the Mets’ rotation has posted a 3.71 ERA, the eighth-best in baseball entering the break. Taijuan Walker has pitched like a third ace, David Peterson has been excellent and Carlos Carrasco has bounced back from a rough 2021 season.
Scherzer is back but will turn 38 next week. Walker folded over the second half last season. Peterson is nearing his professional innings total from last year and Carrasco nearly has doubled his own from last season. Chris Bassitt has been up and down. There are potential problems all around the Mets rotation, which has made a deGrom return all the more important.
Though scares have cropped up, that return now looks closer than ever.