Jacob deGrom Shines in Rehab Debut

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Despite there being a full schedule of MLB games on the schedule on Sunday afternoon, all eyes in the baseball world were paying attention to a lowly minor league contest at Clover Park in Port St. Lucie, Florida where the Mets Single-A affiliate was taking on the Jupiter Hammerheads. That is where two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom was taking the hill for his first minor league rehab start. The 34-year-old hurler didn’t disappoint.

Taking the hill for the first time since being shut down in Spring Training due to a stress reaction in his right scapula, deGrom came out firing smoke. He hit 100 mph on each of his first three pitches – and on six of his 24 total pitches in the outing. He struck out the side in his first inning of work, though he also plunked a batter with a cutter in the dirt.

The star right-hander returned for the second inning, where he struck out both batters that he faced before giving way to the Port St. Lucie bullpen. In total, he faced six batters, struck out five of them and hit one, firing 18 of his 24 pitches for strikes. Not too shabby.

After the game, deGrom told reporters that he had a lot of nerves taking the mound on Sunday, but was also excited to be back out there. He was also quite pleased with how it turned out, explaining “I felt like I had control of everything -- the main thing was trying to locate the fastball and pitch off that. Everything felt good… [My shoulder] feels 100 percent. Because it was bone ... you can’t really push it. I had to wait until the bone was healed and move forward from there.”

Meanwhile, even though deGrom has missed the entire season to date, and fellow ace Max Scherzer has been sidelined for a large chunk of it, the Mets continue to pace the National League East. They won another ballgame over the Rangers on Sunday behind a terrific effort from Carlos Carrasco, improving to 49-30 on the season. That gives them a 3 1/2 game lead over the red-hot Atlanta Braves who continue to nip at their heels in the standings. The Mets getting their top two pitchers back would certainly go a long way toward creating some distance there.

After the game, deGrom noted that he expects to make at least one additional start for Port St. Lucie before rejoining the Mets. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see him need two more starts before making his regular season debut – likely just after the All-Star break. Scherzer, meanwhile, is scheduled to return from his lengthy absence on Tuesday against the Reds.

Mets skipper Buck Showalter quipped after deGrom first suffered his injury in spring training that having him shelved for the first few months of the season and then returning in July would be like making a blockbuster acquisition to their rotation at the trade deadline. The Mets are hopeful that his – and Scherzer’s – return will be enough to catapult them to their first division title since 2015.

Starting Pitchers with an EDGE

Charlie Morton - 7 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 10 K, 36% CSW, 14 swinging strikes

The 38-year-old hurler delivered his finest start of the 2022 season, but was denied a victory after the Braves bullpen was unable to protect his lead. He notched double-digit strikeouts for the third time in his last five outings and surrendered just one hit – an infield single to Max Schrock on the first pitch of the seventh inning. Morton has been outstanding over his last four starts, lowering his ERA from 5.67 to 4.34 in the process.

Triston McKenzie - 7 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 7 K, W (5), 30% CSW, 10 swinging strikes

After giving up 13 runs over his last two starts (both against the Twins), McKenzie bounced back with an absolute gem against the Yankees on Sunday. He notched seven strikeouts while allowing just one hit over seven scoreless frames against a loaded Bombers lineup. On the season, he now holds a 3.71 ERA and stellar 0.98 WHIP over 87 1/3 innings through his first 15 appearances.

Robbie Ray - 6 2/3 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, 12 K, W (7), 37% CSW, 27 swinging strikes

On Sunday afternoon in Seattle, Robbie Ray came through with the type of Cy Young-caliber performance that the Mariners were expecting when inking him to a massive contract over the winter. The 30-year-old southpaw struck out a season-high 12 batters while generating a whopping 27 swinging strikes in the game – 11 of those on his slider. The only blemish on his day was a solo homer off the bat of Elvis Andrus in the seventh inning. On the season, he has compiled a 3.62 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and 117/36 K/BB ratio across 104 1/3 innings through 17 starts.

Hitters with an EDGE

Jeremy Peña - 4-for-5, 2 HR (11), 3 RBI, 2 R

The 24-year-old rookie shortstop basically was the Astros offense in Sunday’s victory over the Angels. He got them on the board with a solo shot off of Jose Suarez in the fourth inning, then demolished a 429-foot two-run walk-off blast off of Ryan Tepera in the ninth inning that sent the Astros home faithful into a frenzy. Peña has not missed a beat since returning from the injured list and is now slashing ,279/.328/.479 with 11 homers, 30 RBI and six stolen bases through his first 60 games at the big league level.

C.J. Cron - 2-for-4, 2 HR (19), 6 RBI, 2 R

C.J. Cron did all of the heavy lifting in an impressive come-from-behind victory over the Diamondbacks on Sunday afternoon. The 32-year-old slugger finally got his club on the board with a three-run shot off of Diamondbacks starter Zac Gallen in the sixth inning, trimming their deficit to two runs at 5-3. He then crushed a go-ahead 412-foot three-run shot off of Noe Ramirez in the eighth inning that proved to be the difference. He’s enjoying a terrific season in the middle of the Rockies lineup, slashing .298/.349/.550 with 19 homers and 64 RBI.

J.T. Realmuto - 2-for-4, HR (6), 2 RBI, R, SB (11)

Realmuto had a jack and a bag to lead the Phillies to a 4-0 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday Night Baseball. His two-run blast came off of Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright in the sixth inning. While the power production has been lacking this season, he has picked it up on the basepaths, slashing .242/.317/.371 with six homers, 31 RBI and 11 stolen bases. He remains one of the top overall catchers in the fantasy landscape.

EDGE Priority Pickup

Isaac Paredes, 1B/2B/3B, Tampa Bay Rays – Available in 40% of Yahoo fantasy leagues

Honestly, with as hot as he has been running and with eligibility at three positions – including middle and corner infield – it’s crazy to me that Paredes is still rostered in just 60 percent of all Yahoo leagues. The 23-year-old – who was acquired from the Tigers for Austin Meadows prior to the season – is slashing .252/.304/.606 with 13 homers, 23 runs scored and 27 RBI in just 41 games with the Rays this season. He has filled in admirably for the injured Brandon Lowe and has shown no signs of slowing down – with an astounding eight homers in his last 11 contests.

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Closing Time

Josh Hader vs. Pirates - 1 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 1 BB, 2 K (25th save)

It wasn’t the smoothest innings of work for the Brewers star closer, as he allowed a one-out double to Jack Suwinski, allowed Diego Castillo to reach on a wild pitch after striking out and then issued a two-out walk to Ke’Bryan Hayes to load the bases. He battled back and got the job done though, getting Bryan Reynolds to fly out to end the game, preserving a two-run lead. Hader becomes the first closer to reach 25 saves on the season – two ahead of Taylor Rogers and five clear of Kenley Jansen.

Dylan Floro vs. Nationals - 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 2 K (1st save)

After current closer Tanner Scott suffered a blown save in the ninth inning, Floro got his opportunity to close it out after the Marlins scored three runs in the top half of the 10th. He seemed energized by pitching in a save situation, retiring the heart of the Nationals lineup in order – including strikeouts of Josh Bell and Nelson Cruz. It doesn’t look like Scott is going to be giving away the ninth-inning gig just yet, but if Floro continues to shine when given high-leverage opportunities, he could work his way back into the mix.

Paul Sewald vs. Athletics - 1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 0 BB, 1 K (ninth save)

Sewald closed out Robbie Ray’s gem on Sunday afternoon, retiring all three hitters that he faced in the ninth inning to protect a one-run lead against the A’s. Don’t look now, but Sewald looks to have run away with the closer’s gig in Seattle. He has recorded five of their last six save chances dating back to June 10 – and the only one that he didn’t get during that stretch was because he had notched saves each of the previous two nights. He holds a stellar 2.73 ERA and 0.71 WHIP over 29 2/3 innings on the season.

Daniel Bard vs. Diamondbacks - 1 IP, 0 ER, 1 H, 2 BB, 2 K (16th save)

Bard rode the roller coaster in this one, but managed to get the job done like he usually does. Taking over with a one-run lead in the ninth inning, he allowed a one-out double to Josh Rojas then issued a two-out intentional walk to David Peralta to face Christian Walker. He then issued a free pass to Walker before getting Daulton Varsho to ground out to end the ballgame. The 37-year-old right-hander has quietly been outstanding for the Rockies this season, registering a 2.05 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 38/15 K/BB ratio over 30 2/3 innings while converting 16 of his first 18 save chances.

Monday’s Matchup of the Day

Dane Dunning (TEX) vs. Dean Kremer (BAL)

Happy Fourth of July! With a jam-packed slate of 14 games on the docket, surely there will be some interesting pitching matchups to tune into. Right?

Yeesh. As a whole, it looks pretty bleak. The one that I’m going to have my eye on in the afternoon though, will be the unheralded duel between Dane Dunning and Dean Kremer in Baltimore.

Dunning has actually pitched much better than his 1-6 record on the season would indicate. The 27-year-old hurler holds a respectable 4.07 ERA, 1.34 WHIP and 77/32 K/BB ratio across 88 innings on the season. He has allowed more than three earned runs just four times in 16 starts on the year and should keep the Rangers in this one.

Meanwhile, Kremer has really impressed in his limited action this season. The 26-year-old right-hander sports a dazzling 1.29 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 19/7 K/BB ratio over 28 frames through his first five starts. He hasn’t allowed a run in any of his last three starts, spanning 18 2/3 innings. He’s certainly worth a look as a streaming option.

American League Quick Hits: Xander Bogaerts was pulled from Sunday’s game against the Cubs due to a laceration on his left thigh. The wound required seven stitches, but Bogaerts is fine and considered day-to-day. … Frankie Montas was removed from Sunday’s start against the Mariners after just one inning due to tightness in his shoulder. He’ll undergo a precautionary MRI on Monday. … Ty France (elbow) won’t return from the injured list when first eligible to do so on Monday. The Mariners remain hopeful that he’ll be activated for next weekend’s series against the Blue Jays. … Jeffrey Springs will rejoin the Rays and start on Tuesday against the Red Sox. … The Guardians recalled James Karinchak from Triple-A Columbus. … Raisel Iglesias served his one-game suspension stemming from the melee against the Mariners on Sunday. … The Angels designated Tyler Wade for assignment. … Jonathan Villar started at third base and hit leadoff in his Angels debut on Sunday. … Kyle Lewis (concussion) began a minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma on Sunday. … The Guardians claimed Oscar Mercado off of waivers from the Phillies. … The Angels acquired Touki Toussaint from the Braves for cash considerations. … Jake Odorizzi will be activated from the injured list to start on Monday against the Royals.

Brady Singer piled up nine strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings of two-run ball in a no-decision against the Tigers. … Edward Olivares homered and drove in two runs to pace the Royals offense in that victory. … Franmil Reyes homered and drove in two runs as the Guardians topped the Yankees. … Rookie right-hander Shane Baz struck out seven over six innings of one-run baseball in a victory over the Blue Jays. … Tyler Wells recorded a career-high seven strikeouts over six innings of one-run ball to beat the Twins. … Framber Valdez struck out a career-high 13 batters in a no-decision against the Angels. … Lucas Giolito struck out seven and gave up just one run over six innings in a victory over the Giants. … Julio Rodriguez walloped his 14th home run of the season as the Mariners triumphed over the A’s.

National League Quick Hits: Juan Soto was removed from Sunday’s game against the Marlins due to left calf tightness. He’ll be re-evaluated on Monday. … The Dodgers activated Mookie Betts (ribs) from the 10-day injured list. He started in right field and hit leadoff against the Padres on Sunday after missing two weeks due to a cracked rib. … Craig Kimbrel was pulled from Sunday’s outing against the Padres after being drilled in the back by a line drive. He’s considered day-to-day. … Braves slugger Adam Duvall underwent an MRI exam on his injured left hand on Sunday which came back negative for any fractures. He’s considered day-to-day. … The Brewers placed Tyrone Taylor on the 7-day concussion injured list. … The Pirates acquired left-hander Manny Bañuelos from the Yankees for cash. … Yoshi Tsutsugo (back) and Ben Gamel (hamstring) are expected to return to the Pirates on Tuesday. … Anthony DeSclafani will undergo surgery on his injured right ankle and is expected to miss significant time. … The Giants placed Thairo Estrada on the COVID-19 IL and recalled Yermin Mercedes from Triple-A Sacramento. … The Rockies acquired Corey Oswalt from the Phillies for cash considerations. … The Dodgers signed catcher Austin Barnes to a two-year, $7 million contract extension. … LaMonte Wade missed Sunday’s game due to a bruised elbow. … The Phillies placed Ranger Suárez on the 15-day IL with lower back spasms. … Cristopher Sánchez is expected to be recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to start in his place on Tuesday. … Anthony DeSclafani (ankle) confirmed that he will miss the remainder of the 2022 season. … Wil Myers (knee) could begin a minor league rehab assignment next week.

Marcell Ozuna blasted a pair of home runs as the Braves fell to the Reds in extra innings. … Michael Harris II swatted a game-tying homer with two outs in the ninth inning in that one. … Luis Castillo struck out six over seven innings of one-run ball in a no-decision against the Braves. … Brandon Woodruff punched out eight over six shutout innings to earn a victory over the Pirates. … Carlos Carrasco fanned eight over 5 2/3 innings in a victory over the Rangers. … Eduardo Escobar homered for the third consecutive game to pace the Mets attack in that one. … Jesus Sanchez crushed a go-ahead two-run homer off of Tanner Rainey in the ninth inning as the Marlins rallied to beat the Nationals. … David Peralta socked a grand slam in a loss to the Rockies. … Clayton Kershaw racked up eight strikeouts over seven scoreless frames in a tough-luck no-decision against the Padres. … Zack Wheeler scattered four hits over seven shutout innings in a victory over the Cardinals.