Mets choose not to play it safe by allowing Jacob deGrom to throw prior to MRI

ST. LOUIS – Around 10 a.m. Saturday morning, Jacob deGrom walked onto the field at Busch Stadium and started throwing to bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello.

Just one day earlier, the New York Mets announced deGrom would be placed on the injured list with elbow soreness, and would undergo an MRI on Monday. Now, it was as if nothing was wrong, with deGrom long-tossing from about 120 feet for about 15 minutes in a quiet stadium.

Oh, and that MRI is now up in the air.

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“It goes back to the throwing thing,” deGrom said Saturday morning. “I feel better when I throw. We had that discussion, ‘Hey, should we just wait till we see the doctor?’ I said, ‘Well it’s not feeling bad, so why go two, almost three more days without throwing?’ Now you’re trying to get ready. You go all those days and then I got a bullpen Tuesday. What was the point if it feels fine to throw?”

In an odd turn of events, deGrom and the Mets seem to be backing away from their plans to be uber-conservative with deGrom by allowing him to throw and possibly forego an MRI. Both deGrom and Mets manager Mickey Callaway said team medical director Dr. David Altchek is on board with their plan, and deGrom is still scheduled to be evaluated Monday in New York.

New York Mets starter Jacob deGrom was feeling better on Saturday morning about his elbow. (AP Photo)
New York Mets starter Jacob deGrom was feeling better on Saturday morning about his elbow. (AP Photo)

“Honestly, [the MRI] will be up to Dr. Altchek,” deGrom said. “I got an MRI whenever I signed the deal and everything was perfectly fine. I don’t think anything happened in those four starts. I would have felt something on a pitch. I had a phone call with Dr. Altchek and he doesn’t seem concerned. Talking to him and kind of telling him what I was feeling, he’s not really that concerned. I’m just going to meet with him Monday and go over some things and just go from there.”

DeGrom’s health is the most important storyline concerning the Mets. He needs to be a dominant ace for this team to have a shot at making the playoffs. He’s one of the game’s true elite pitchers, and any formula the Mets have for making the playoffs involves him making roughly 30 starts.

The righty has been battling a sickness, and is still a little under the weather, and his elbow felt sore Thursday when he reported to Busch Stadium to throw in advance of his scheduled start. Once he informed the team, they decided to place him on the disabled list to be cautious.

Both deGrom and team sources have downplayed the concern level surrounding the injury, and these latest actions certainly indicate that they do not believe this is a serious issue. Callaway said deGrom didn’t undergo an immediate MRI due to doctors being unavailable due to the holiday weekend.

For all the optimism, though, the safest play would have been to just shut him down until Monday, and wait until he undergoes an MRI. That may push him back a day or two from making his next start Friday against Milwaukee — which is the target – but it would eliminate any complications from arising.

DeGrom has improved since Saturday, which played a role in him throwing, but it’s fair to question what upside there is to having him throw before being examined.

“He improved so much, and I’m not a doctor, we’re going off what they say, he improved so much yesterday and he feels good today,” Callaway said. “I won’t speak for the doctors but it’s looking he was just tired. He didn’t get to play catch and work out and stuff after he pitched last time so that takes its toll. When you don’t get to flush your system out.”

DeGrom believes the soreness may stem from the strep throat he’s been battling since the sickness affected his ability to do his normal between-starts work.

He agreed with the decision to sideline him rather than pitch through the soreness.

“I thought the whole time that I was going to be fine,” deGrom said. “I think it was just being smart about it. It’s April right now. We got a lot of season left. Just making sure that everything was fine and not being careless about it and going out there and trying to pitch when I was feeling a little something. This gives me a chance to get back on my normal routine, get off the mound a couple times and now that I’m feeling better, hopefully not go back on the IL again.”

The Mets’ handling of deGrom’s situation may prove to be nothing more than a temporary hot topic, but this organization has had notable gaffes in the past with how it’s handled injuries.

The team earned praise Friday night for its plan to be overly cautious, but allowing a long toss and the possible skipping of an MRI would not fall under that description.

The Mets invested $137.5 million in deGrom this offseason, knowing that he’s a critical part of their short-term and long-term plans. Keeping him healthy is a priority.

“When you come in and say, hey, your elbow’s a little sore, they’re going to be concerned,” deGrom said. “I think that would be with anybody. My goal is to make every start. I’m disappointed that I’m not making this one. I honestly think it goes back to the week that I’ve been sick – not throwing, not running, not lifting, not doing anything. I think my body was just run-down. I wasn’t eating a whole lot, wasn’t able to get a whole lot of fluids in me. Now we’re just trying to rebuild.”

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