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For as long as he’s hiding in the shadows of minor-league fields, rehab starts and simulated games, Jacob deGrom is the great unknown looming over the Mets’ season.
Perhaps the best pitcher of his generation, deGrom hasn’t been any help to his team this year, as a problem in his scapula has kept him from pitching at all. The latest update was that he was “feeling good” after throwing 60 pitches on Thursday — a session that was pushed back because deGrom was feeling sore earlier in the week — and on Friday Showalter was able to publicly speak about his expected ace for the first time since before the All-Star break.
“I just talked to Jake. He’ll be traveling here to take a work day with us on Sunday,” Showalter revealed. “Trevor [May] will too. It was fun watching them live yesterday. Trevor’s doing great. I’m really excited about his progress too. But Jake is where he needs to be. We’ll see how Sunday goes.”
Showalter was asked if deGrom will throw another rehab game in the minor leagues before making his long-awaited return to the majors, where he has not pitched since July 7 of last year.
“That’s the plan. I think it’d be good for Jake to get that, mentally.”
Showalter said that May could also go out on a rehab assignment as early as next week.
David Peterson, who has done an admirable job of filling whatever role the Mets have asked of him this season, will move to the bullpen for now. Showalter said that much of Peterson’s usage and positioning (whether that’s in the starting rotation or bullpen) will depend on deGrom.
“It’s just kind of where he is in doing the things he needs to do to return,” Showalter said of deGrom. “The hope is that he makes a [rehab] start after his work day, then we’ll look to slot him in. If he needs another one after that, we’ll do it. We’ve operated quite a while without him. We’re looking forward to operating with him. He felt good today, I hope he feels good tomorrow.”
Showalter said firmly that deGrom has not expressed any concern to him about the shoulder discomfort.
“He’ll throw on Sunday and respond well to that. We’ll see when and where he pitches next. It won’t be for us in his next outing. Everyone kind of talked about it. This is the best way to proceed to get him back. We didn’t have to push it, so we didn’t.”
The clock is certainly ticking. While the period after the All-Star break is colloquially known as the “second half”, the Mets only have 68 games remaining after Friday’s affair at Citi Field. It’s not quite now or never for deGrom, but there’s definitely some urgency in the building now.
“It’s kind of that time of year where the cheese gets more binding, so to speak,” Showalter offered. “It seems like the infinite number of games is not infinite anymore. There’s a finish line that’s starting to appear in the distance. It’s like a horse race where you’re trying to look around at where you are in the oval. Regardless of what happened in the past, it doesn’t really matter now. Here it is, here’s the plot in front of you.”
DOM’S SPRAINED ANKLE
The Mets placed Dom Smith on the 10-day injured list on Thursday. Smith has a right ankle sprain after rolling it during the team’s doubleheader on Saturday in Chicago. Showalter acknowledged that things looked pretty gruesome but won’t be nearly as disastrous as the naked eye might have guessed.
“It looks bad, but I’m glad we got a steadfast diagnosis on it,” Showalter said. “I usually ask, ‘In a perfect world, when would he be back?’ I’ll probably ask that at some point today.”
NEW TEMPORARY FIRST BASE COACH
On Tuesday, Mets’ first base coach Wayne Kirby had surgery to remove cancer that doctors found in his prostate prior to the season. Kirby is at home recovering, and by all accounts doing very well, but he will not be with the team for this series against San Diego. Ramon Fernandez, who throws batting practice to the team, is filling in for the time being.
“Ramon is solid,” Showalter said. “I think it’s good for the players to have someone they’re very familiar with. They work with him every day. It also helps that he speaks Spanish.”
Showalter said they expect Kirby to return sometime after the Yankee series, which wraps up on Wednesday the 27th.
“I wish I could share all the quotes and pictures he sent me,” Showalter teased. “He hasn’t lost his sense of humor.”
PAPA BUCK’S BIG BREAK
If you were wondering what Showalter got up to during the All-Star break, well, he’ll tell you.
“Me? I got two vaccinations, made the mistake of getting them on the same day. That was about 20 hours worth of feeling poopy. I took my grandsons to FAO Schwarz, that was a mistake. I’m going to need some playoff money. That’s some place. They were making cotton candy in there. Does anybody like cotton candy?”
He also took notice of Starling Marte’s outfit on the All-Star Game red carpet and hopes to emulate it soon.
“Next road trip, I’m going to wear a suit with no shirt.”