Mickey Callaway uttered the scariest three letters in baseball in regards to ace Jacob deGrom: M, R and I.
The Mets skipper announced before Friday’s game in St. Louis that deGrom’s right elbow is “barking” after playing catch on Thursday. DeGrom will travel back with the team on Sunday, and make a “hospital visit” for an MRI Monday.
In the meantime, deGrom has been placed on the 10-day injured list (retroactive to April 16). The Mets expect deGrom to return in time for their series against the Brewers on April 26.
“His arm felt significantly better following treatment with our health and performance staff today,” general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said in a statement on Friday. “Even so, Jacob will be evaluated by our medical team in New York on Monday in the abundance of caution.”
DeGrom, who has struggled in his last two starts, already had his next start pushed back due to what the team referred to as strep throat. He was scheduled to pitch on Saturday in St. Louis to line up a home start against the Phillies next week.
Callaway said Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz will remain on turn to pitch Sunday and Monday, respectively. Saturday’s starter in place of deGrom has not yet been announced.
DeGrom underwent Tommy John surgery on the same ailing right elbow in 2010. He suffered a setback in September 2016 – undergoing another surgery due to ulnar nerve damage in his right arm. At the time, former general manager Sandy Alderson described the nerve damage as, “not unusual after Tommy John surgery.”
Although fans should keep their emotions in check before results of the MRI are released, deGrom’s elbow soreness is, at the very least, concerning in the interim.
The reigning NL Cy Young winner has given up five home runs over his last two starts and has seen his ERA jump to 3.68. Following his last start against the Braves (three earned runs, five innings), deGrom was uneasy about his location.
“I'm not really throwing the ball where I want to right now,” deGrom said on Sunday. “I felt great my first two starts. I don't think it's something that's too far off.”
DeGrom’s absence from the Mets rotation, no matter how egregious that absence is, applies added pressure on the team’s shaky pitching staff. The Mets pitching corps enters Friday with the worst ERA in the NL (5.54) and the fourth-highest ERA in the league.
The urgency for an additional Mets arm was critical before deGrom’s elbow soreness, but it became mandatory following Friday’s news. Two quality pitching depth options are up for grabs.
Gio Gonzalez is reportedly breaking his ties with the Yankees. The left-hander signed a one-year deal with the Bronx Bombers in March, but Gonzalez can opt-out of his minor-league contract on Saturday. On Friday afternoon, Gonzalez left his agent, Scott Boras, and signed with CAA – the previous employer of Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen.
If Gonzalez implements his opt-out clause on Saturday, the Yankees have 48 hours to either add him to their major-league roster or grant him his release. Reasonably, Gonzalez could become a free agent by Monday.
And, of course, 2015 Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel is still sitting idly on the free-agent market. It’s possible the Mets are waiting on the results of deGrom’s MRI before rushing to offer contracts, but the longer they wait, the greater the risk of an NL East division rival snatching Keuchel.
The left-hander has a career 3.66 ERA across seven years with the Houston Astros. Keuchel went 12-11 with a 3.74 ERA in 34 starts for the Astros last season, reaching 200 innings for the third time in his career and winning his fourth Gold Glove Award in five seasons.