Mets ace deGrom sniffs out 5 of 6 first-start batters in rehab

NEW YORK (AP) — Finally back in a game, Jacob deGrom was sharp.

The New York Mets ace struck out five of six batters he faced and threw 18 of 24 pitches for strikes Sunday night in his first minor league rehab start for Class A St. Lucie.

deGrom’s only setback against the Jupiter Hammerheads in Port St. Lucie, Fla., came when he hit a batter with a pitch.

As deGrom warmed up in the bullpen before the game, more than a dozen young St. Lucia players gathered behind him to watch his diet.

It was deGrom’s first competitive outing since spring training, sidelined all season due to a stress reaction in his right shoulder blade that caused inflammation. The two-time Cy Young Award winner also missed the second half of last season with a right forearm tightness and a sprained elbow – he hasn’t pitched in the majors since 7 July 2021.

As he builds his arm strength and endurance, the 34-year-old right-hander will need several minor league rehab outings before he’s ready to join the New York rotation.

General manager Billy Eppler likened the process to a typical spring training progression, and manager Buck Showalter said deGrom won’t return until he’s stretched enough to pitch five or more innings.

It is therefore likely that deGrom will not return to the big leagues until at least the end of July, after the star break.

Fellow compatriot Max Scherzer (5-1, 2.54 ERA) is expected to return from a strained left oblique muscle and start for the Mets on Tuesday night in Cincinnati. Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, was injured May 18 against St. Louis and recently made two rehab starts for Double-A Binghamton.

New York leads the NL East by 3½ games over defending World Series champion Atlanta.

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