Jacob deGrom’s arm injury scare serves as a reminder of the fragile nature of his storied career

The New York City area has no shortage of must-see sporting events as the post-pandemic world begins to feel tangible.

The Islanders are trying to shut down the Nassau Coliseum, for the second time, by reaching the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in 37 years. It seemed like a long time ago that the Knicks had won a playoff game, but the reaction after their only victory in a first-round series against the Hawks – for the record, their first playoff victory in just eight years – proved that a third Knicks championship would spark the biggest sports festival in the history of the Big Apple.

Nobody really cares about the Nets in these parts, but they are the super team that everyone else is rooting for, so that makes them attractive. Even the surprisingly boring boredom of the Yankees is interesting, if for no other reason that it serves as a reminder of how many subsequent pages and layoffs George Steinbrenner would have made in an attempt to shake up this boring and boring team.

But every five days, Jacob deGrom takes them all off center stage, because as demonstrated again on Friday night, when the Islanders and Nets were down, he gave a singular talent the spotlight for himself. , every appearance he makes carries the promise. of history, as well as a pervasive reminder of the fragility of his quest for unprecedented greatness.

deGrom and manager Luis Rojas said there was no reason to worry Friday night, shortly after the Mets held on to winning a 3-2 win in which deGrom pitched six scoreless innings with a single hit and delivered. which turned out to be the game. winning a two-run single before coming out with right flexor tendonitis.

“I’m not too worried about it because it didn’t get much worse as the game went on,” said deGrom, who said he felt some discomfort in the flexor area between starts. “But in the sixth inning, when I was trying to warm up, I could feel it and it was getting a little hard.

“But I’ve had a couple of elbow problems before and I know how it feels, so my level of concern is not too high. I’m pretty optimistic about it and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be something we can deal with and hopefully not get lost at any point.

deGrom underwent surgery on Tommy John after his first pro season in 2010. Six years later, he had the ulnar nerve in his right elbow repositioned, which is a fairly common operation for Tommy John patients.

“I’m not worried either, just because Jake isn’t,” Rojas said. “He hopes to make his next outing. I hope you make your next outing. “

Inexplicably, the Mets did not immediately administer an MRI on Friday, although Rojas said an MRI was done on Saturday and it was clean. DeGrom was seen pitching the bullpen at Citi Field and stretching before midgame of a three-game series against the Padres, which would appear to keep him in line to start against the Cubs on Wednesday.

Still, even deGrom acknowledged on Friday that any type of flexor ailment is a major concern for any pitcher. Last year flexor tendon injuries finally led to Chris Sale and Dakota Hudson’s Tommy John surgery. A flexor tendon injury in 2019 eventually resulted in modified Tommy John surgery for Rich Hill, who previously underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010.

“That’s the thing: Every time you elbow a pitcher, everyone gets a little nervous about it,” deGrom said.

Especially when the pitcher is doing things that no one alive has ever seen and will probably never be done again, and he does them while throwing a baseball as hard as possible.

By becoming the first Mets pitcher to strike out at least 10 while facing the minimum in a start of at least six innings (Wil Myers singled with one out in the fifth before he was caught stealing), deGrom reduced his ERA. to an incomprehensible 0.56 and his WHIP to 0.53, both of which are the lowest for a pitcher in 10 starts. His ERA has been below 1.00 for the past 55 innings.

His fourth-inning scent of fellow MVP candidate Fernando Tatis gave deGrom 100 strikeouts in 61 2/3 innings, the fastest any pitcher has hit 100 strikeouts since the mound moved to 60 feet, 6 inches. in 1893.

And in the final season before the universal designated hitter was likely to be implemented, deGrom made sure he would win by producing his own career support with a two-run single off Blake Snell in the fifth. He has more RBIs (five) than earned runs allowed (four). It’s June 12.

“Jake is from another planet,” closer Edwin Diaz said.

The Baseball-Reference page says DeLand, Florida, so we’ll assume for now that Diaz is being hyperbolic. But the story of mere mortals throwing baseballs with such force suggests that deGrom finds himself in equally unknown and dangerous territory.

deGrom, who turns 33 next week, has thrown 128 pitches at 100 mph or more this season and, according to FanGraphs, leads the greats in average fastball speeds among the starters at 99.2 mph, nearly six mph faster than as a rookie in 2014. He also led the headlines last season at 98.6 mph.

Between 2016 and 2019, deGrom’s teammate Noah Syndergaard and fellow Big Apple ace Luis Severino led the majors twice in average fastball speed among starting pitchers. They both underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2020.

The late Yordano Ventura, who died in a car accident in January 2017, led Major League Baseball starters in speed in 2014 and 2015, when the pitchers behind him were Garrett Richards and Matt Harvey, respectively. Richards underwent Tommy John surgery in 2019, while Harvey in 2015 was in his first season following the Tommy John surgery he underwent in October 2013, just after leading the majors in average fastball speed. among the headlines.

The explanation of deGrom’s early departure merely served as a verbalization of what was previously understood and unsaid as it unfolded Friday night and a full Citi Field for the pandemic era roared and everyone in the stands and in the field were thinking of a no-hitter. o Perfect game from first release: There is a finite nature to deGrom’s historical domain.

There will be more spring races for local hockey and basketball teams, and eventually the Yankees will be good and interesting again. But even in the short-term best for deGrom: His right arm is fine, he picks up where he left off on Wednesday, and he has no more noticeable bumps on the road to winning the Cy Young and MVP while nearly crashing. a place in Cooperstown: how many more nights like Friday can you expect?

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about it,” deGrom said of a no-hitter or perfect game after retiring the first 13 batters. “Throwing a perfect or no-hitter game is definitely a goal. I just couldn’t do it. “

See those offers while we, and he, still can.

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