Following Jacob deGrom's good MRI news, sports surgeon discusses what could be next as ace works way back

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Jacob deGrom treated image, winding back to throw with orange X behind head
Jacob deGrom treated image, winding back to throw with orange X behind head

Jacob deGrom and the Mets received good news on Monday after deGrom had a follow-up CT scan and MRI on his injured right shoulder.

Specifically, deGrom -- who had been in the midst of a roughly four-week shutdown to allow the injury (a stress reaction to his scapula) time to heal, has been cleared to "begin loading and strengthening of the shoulder" after his CT scan and MRI showed "considerable healing" of his stress reaction. DeGrom will be re-imaged in approximately three weeks.

While deGrom has been cleared to begin working his way back, he has not yet been cleared to throw. So what's next, and when might he return?

For insight, SNY spoke with Deepak Chona, MD, a Stanford-trained orthopedic sports surgeon and founder of SportsMedAnalytics.

"The [next] MRI would be about six-to-seven weeks from the [initial] shutdown because that's how long the bone healing process takes," explained Chona, who does not personally treat deGrom.

"They'll want to know how the injury looks after he starts some activity with the shoulder, which will probably include mostly strengthening and potentially some light throwing. Most surgeons wouldn't clear him for full speed pitching before that MRI is completed."

Chona believes the chances of the MRI not improving as expected by the next scan are "pretty low," and notes that from this point, "the key for deGrom is to avoid accelerating his rehab too quickly."

"Over the next two-to-three weeks, he’ll be focusing on exercises to re-train the muscles that have been resting. Three weeks from now, he’ll get a new MRI to confirm that his shoulder has continued to heal despite increasing activity. Full healing of a stress reaction takes about six weeks, which is not coincidentally the point in the timeline where deGrom will be since his shutdown began."

Jacob deGrom
Jacob deGrom

Mets manager Buck Showalter recently hinted at some changes deGrom would be making in an effort to remain healthy once he returns, and Anthony DiComo of MLB.com reported earlier this week that those changes will include deGrom altering his mechanics -- noting that the Mets determined deGrom's recent mechanics had started causing "undue stress" on his shoulder during his delivery.

What kind of impact might the change to deGrom's mechanics have?

"Naturally, this raises red flags," Chona notes. "Will the change in technique affect his production? Our answer is 'probably not.' Jacob deGrom has been highly effective for many years prior to sustaining this scapular stress reaction ... He should be able to revert to the mechanics that both served him well and kept his shoulder healthy in the past."

DeGrom, who last pitched for the Mets on July 7, 2021, suffered setbacks while attempting to work his way back from elbow issues last season. However, he was on track to rejoin the staff in late September before the Mets were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, which resulted in him being shut down for the year.

As far as deGrom's current injury and recovery, Chona believes the Mets have a good reason to "feel strongly optimistic" about his chances to be effective and stay healthy when he returns.

"From the re-injury risk perspective, deGrom is very likely in the clear from this one, as long as he follows a reasonable rehab protocol," Chona said. "He’s had health issues before, and 33 is not young for a professional baseball pitcher with major mileage on his arm. Still, there is nothing about this injury or recovery so far that would indicate a problem that isn’t likely to be solved in a few more weeks."