NEW YORK — If there is one blot of adversity the Mets can ill afford to face, it is an injury to Jacob deGrom. In the views of many, deGrom has risen to the title of undisputed best pitcher in the world. Even for a Mets team that invested so much to improve all aspects of its roster this winter, deGrom remains the most indispensable piece.
That is why the Mets observed such caution in the sixth inning Sunday at Citi Field, when deGrom departed due to what team officials called a bout of “right side tightness.” The episode occurred six days after deGrom skipped a start due to inflammation in his right lat, a major muscle on the side of the body. And it cast storm clouds over what was otherwise an uplifting fifth straight win and series sweep for the Mets, who relied on another strong bullpen performance to topple the D-backs, 4-2, and retake first place in the NL East.
After the game, deGrom went for an MRI, which the Mets hope will reveal further information.
“We’re hoping for the best,” said outfielder Michael Conforto, whose leaping catch in the second inning provided an early highlight of the win. “Jake’s very careful. He’s not going to pitch on anything that doesn’t feel right. He’s a really tough guy as well. He’s strong. He’s built well. We don’t know anything at this point, so it doesn’t make any sense to speculate what’s going on. But obviously, we don’t like to see him leave the game early.”
deGrom was unavailable for comment because he was traveling to Manhattan for his MRI.
He pitched the first five innings without major issue, looking imperfect at times but nonetheless managing to retire the first dozen batters he faced. As the game progressed, so did deGrom, who struck out four over the third and fourth innings upon recovering from an early inability — relatively speaking — to spot his fastball where he wanted. deGrom even contributed his league-high seventh hit as a pitcher, bunting for a single that furthered the Mets’ two-run rally in the third.
But deGrom’s run of excellence ended in the fifth, when he walked three batters in an inning for the first time in three years. He escaped that jam having allowed just one run to raise his league-leading ERA to 0.68, yet as deGrom began throwing his warmup pitches in the top of the sixth, he called for head trainer Brian Chicklo to meet him on the mound. The two briefly conversed before deGrom departed.
“We were debating, and it wasn’t worth it to take the risk,” Rojas said. “That’s when we went to remove him, to take a closer look at what’s going on there.”
According to Rojas, that marked the first time deGrom had complained of any tightness during the game. The issue was located more toward his lower back than his lat, which eased some initial concerns that the Mets had brought him back too soon. (deGrom had managed to play catch multiple times and throw a bullpen session after his missed start without issue.) Still, the Mets are plenty aware of how intricately those muscles are connected.
“I want to leave that to the medical staff and our team doctor, so they take a closer look and see what it is,” Rojas said.
Read More News: Mets sweep, but deGrom exits with tightness