Met’s pitching rotation is thriving even without the battered Jacob deGrom

PHILADELPHIA – The well-known philosopher William Nathaniel Showalter III assured us that the sky didn’t collapse: it was just rain.

The Mets manager’s observation came four days before his team was scheduled to pause spring training without ace Jacob deGrom, who that morning had been diagnosed with a stress reaction on his right shoulder blade and told to stop throwing.

Showalter had to further adjust his rotation after Max Scherzer’s right hamstring strained, causing him to miss his final show start.

A week into the regular season, the Mets (with five wins in seven games) are thriving thanks in no small part to an admirable rotation, even without deGrom and with Scherzer not quite as strong.

Early concerns have shifted to the bullpen, causing Showalter too much anxiety. Thursday’s day off at least gives this unit a chance to reset after games the Mets lost on Sunday and Monday in which they failed to protect the leads. Turmoil involving Sean Reid-Foley and Joely Rodriguez on Wednesday kept the game closer than it should have been in the Mets’ 9-6 win over the Phillies.

Max Scherzer pitches.
Max Scherzer throws a pitch for the New York Mets.
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Tylor Megil
Tylor Megill goes off the mound after an inning.
Getty Images

But the Mets travel to Citi Field for the home game with a starting rotation that owns a 5-0 record and 1.29 ERA. Opponents produced a paltry .437 OPS against the starting five. Taijuan Walker’s bursitis diagnosis, which will cost him at least one start, brings a pause, but the opening seven games have sparked renewed hope that this group will not only survive but thrive. Especially after a three-game stretch against a scary Phillies lineup that saw Walker/David Peterson, Tylor Megill and Scherzer combine to provide a run.

Scherzer allowed that run during an appearance Wednesday, which sort of defines the pitcher the Mets signed to a three-year, $130 million contract: a competitor who’ll even tease you with his B or C game can hit.

There was a 29-pitch first inning in which Scherzer went over the bases loaded but escaped unharmed. As if that wasn’t tough enough, he conceded hits to Nick Castellanos and Jean Segura, who led fourth place, beating Didi Gregorius and Johan Camargo back-to-back, then handed an RBI single to Bryson Stott. Subsequent batter, Matt Vierling, may have done the right-hander a favor by swinging and popping out on the first pitch.

Jacob deGrom looks on in frustration.
Jacob deGrom watches during a New York Mets game.
Joseph E Amaturo

Scherzer returned to the mound for the next inning, facing the all-star cast of Kyle Schwarber, JT Realmuto, Bryce Harper and Castellanos. Only Realmuto reached the base with a single. The other three were retired.

“I think you see why a guy likes [Scherzer] is so in demand,” Showalter said. “Especially the last inning where he was in the batting order. That’s probably as impressive as you want to see. He just didn’t miss it. He never gave up. It’s fun to watch him compete.”

Showalter then added with a laugh, “It’s no fun to think about taking him out of the game.”

In his last 15 starts, Scherzer has endorsed three different franchises (Nationals, Dodgers, and Mets), but there’s been one constant: his team has won every time. He’s 13-0 in his last 21 starts. Only two of those wins came for the Mets, but it’s certainly a different dynamic than the team with deGrom, whose brilliance has all too often been wasted on underperformance elsewhere.

Scherzer noted that start felt different than his Mets debut Friday in Washington, as his right leg was strong under him and the weak hamstring was gone.

“I threw pitches where I wanted, but they were just missing,” said Scherzer. “[But] I made big pitches when needed, when the runners were on base.”

If there was a silver lining to deGrom’s injury, the Mets found out about Megill, who otherwise would have been in the bullpen or relegated to start at Triple-A Syracuse. After two stellar starts from the right, one can suddenly wonder if the Mets have found their next homegrown talent for the rotation. They wonder if Megill can join deGrom, Scherzer and Chris Bassitt to form a dynamic 1-4 punch.

But that’s a dream for another day, largely reliant on health. For now, the Mets can only celebrate early signs that the sky will remain over them even without deGrom.

Some rain has come from Showalter picking up the phone to the bullpen. Met’s pitching rotation is thriving even without the battered Jacob deGrom


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