MIAMI — The closer Jacob deGrom gets to Tuesday night the more he expects to feel like a newbie again.
“Nerves haven’t set in yet,” deGrom said Sunday after manager Buck Showalter officially announced the right-hander’s Mets return will occur Tuesday as the starting pitcher in Washington. “But I am sure I will be pretty nervous and I have a feeling it’s going to feel like my debut, so I am definitely excited.”
The two-time Cy Young award winner was last seen pitching for the Mets in spring training, before he was diagnosed with a stress reaction in his right scapula. His last appearance in the regular season occurred on July 7, 2021 — he was sidelined for the entire second half of last season with elbow and forearm ailments.
After nearly a month of minor league rehab starts, deGrom has built up to 67 pitches. The expectation is he will extend into the 80-pitch range against the Nationals. DeGrom’s final outing for Triple-A Syracuse was curtailed because of leg cramps.
DeGrom was asked if there are any preventative measures he can take to ensure his arm stays healthy.
“Just go out and do my normal thing,” he said. “You go out there and leave it all out on the field. You play the game the way you have always played it and do your best to do everything you can to stay healthy and leave it all out there and try to help the team win.”
In evaluating what caused the stress reaction, deGrom said ramping up too quickly in spring training may have been a factor. DeGrom also examined his mechanics.
“In 2018 and ’19 I felt I was at my best mechanically and I took a lot of time to look at those videos and try to get back there,” deGrom said. “I noticed I was a little more upright and leaning more toward first base in my follow-through than in those years, so with this time to work on things. I feel like I got my mechanics back to where I want them.”
DeGrom said he’s missed the game during his absence and hopes he can help the Mets continue their ride through first place in the NL East.
“Personal goals are personal goals, but this is a team game and the ultimate goal is to win the World Series,” deGrom said. “Watching these guys go out there and compete has been fun, but it’s a lot more fun to go out there and compete with them.
“In 2015 when we made it to the World Series and fell a little bit short, that was some of the most fun I ever had playing baseball, so hopefully get back there and actually win the whole thing this year.”
In spring training, deGrom indicated he plans to opt out from his contract after the season. Has anything about that plan changed?
“That is still the same,” deGrom said.