What Jacob deGrom says about returning to Mets after hitting 100 mph in Syracuse rehab start

Marquel Slaughter
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom. (AP File Photo/Frank Franklin II)

SYRACUSE — Is Jacob deGrom ready to return to the MLB?

After pleasing the sold out NBT Bank Stadium crowd of 10,815 with 100 mph fastballs during his rehab start for Triple-A Syracuse, DeGrom felt he was ready to return to the New York Mets, but he was unsure of when he'll suit up again.

"I'm not sure," DeGrom said during a mid-game press conference after pitching four innings against Jacksonville Thursday. "That will be the discussion we have in the following week or so."

DeGrom, the New York Mets' two-time Cy Young Award winner, saw his fair share of highs and lows during his highly-anticipated rehab start for the Triple-A Syracuse Mets Thursday night at NBT Bank Stadium.

Against the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, DeGrom struck out four batters, scattered two hits and walked a batter in 42 pitches in what is expected to be his only Triple-A game before returning to the majors.

DeGrom left the game in the middle of the fourth with Syracuse leading 4-1 to a large round of applause. The Syracuse Mets went on to beat Jacksonville 6-4.

DeGrom, a 34-year-old right-handed pitcher, made his third rehab start Thursday. He previously threw for Single-A St. Lucie. A stress reaction on his right scapula kept the four-time all-star sidelined since July 7, 2021.

The New York Mets have games Friday and Saturday at the Chicago Cubs.

"(Rehab) hasn't been that much fun," DeGrom said. "Trying to stick to the process. You want to be up there helping the team. ... With this injury it was cut and dry how you got to take this amount of time and slowly work your way back. It stinks being out but (I'm) getting close now and definitely ready to be back out there."

How did Jacob deGrom look?

DeGrom was dealing Thursday.

The goal for DeGrom was to increase his pitch count. His fastball could have been more precise, and his off-speed pitches weren't as effective as he wanted, but DeGrom said he "felt good".

"Overall, I felt like I accomplished what I came out here to do," DeGrom said.

DeGrom's pitches reached 100 mph three times, beginning and ending his start with 1-2-3 innings in the first and fourth.

Against Jacksonville's leadoff hitter Brian Miller, deGrom's first pitch was a 98 mph fastball. He struck him out in three pitches, fanning him with a 100 mph pitch to the crowd's delight. DeGrom then retired Williams Astudillo and Lewin Diaz with pop flies to the outfield.

DeGrom allowed a few Jacksonville runners on base in the second inning. Jerar Encarnacion hit a leadoff double to right field to spark it. Clean up hitter JJ Bleday, the highly-touted Miami Marlins prospect, then worked a walk.

DeGrom and his defense woke up after that. Syracuse turned a 4-6-3 double play during Peyton Burdick's at-bat. DeGrom then struck out Charles Leblanc with an off-speed 91 mph breaking ball to end the inning.

In the third, struck out Luis Aviles Jr. with a slider. Santiago Chavez singled, then scored on a wild pitch by deGrom. DeGrom then fanned Astudillo for his fourth strikeout.

In the fourth, DeGrom had a 1-2-3 inning and exited to loud applause from the sold-out crowd of nearly 11,000.

New York Mets fans may have gotten a glimpse of their future battery with deGrom throwing to prospect Francisco Alvarez. DeGrom said he discussed his game plan with the young catcher prior to the game. He was impressed by Alvarez's performance behind the plate.

"He's a nice target back there," DeGrom said.

Previous starts

DeGrom pitched well in his two previous rehab starts with Single-A St. Lucie.

Down in the Florida State League, DeGrom struck out 11 of the 18 batters he faced over 4.2 combined scoreless innings. DeGrom gave up three hits in those outings.

DeGrom hasn't appeared in the MLB in over a year. Rehabilitation has been tough on the ace, but his patience has him on the verge of returning to the major leagues soon.

New York Mets

It appears to be a good time for deGrom to return to the majors.

The New York Mets (55-34) were only 2.5 games ahead of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East entering Thursday. That's after New York's hot start saw them enter June with a 10.5-game division lead. The Braves used a 14-game winning streak in June to close in on the NY Mets.

Before DeGrom was sidelined with an injury last season, he was toying with an historic season, recording an 1.08 ERA before the all-star break, which was the lowest ERA entering the all-star game since the St. Louis Cardinals' Bob Gibson recorded a 1.06 ERA in 1968.

"(I) definitely want to be back there but I couldn't go too soon," DeGrom said.

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