Despite all the uncertainty that has surrounded a nation and its pastime during the coronavirus pandemic, New York Mets starter Jacob deGrom is still locked in on baseball and the pursuit of winning a third-consecutive National League Cy Young Award.
He made his first appearance on the hill at Citi Field on Sunday after a consistent throwing regimen at home, throwing a simulated game that prompted manager Luis Rojas to admit that his star pitcher looked like he was “in midseason form.”
“I feel really good,” deGrom told reporters over Zoom on Monday. “I continued throwing well at home. Hopefully, I got those two or three bad starts out of the way during bullpen sessions… I’m not trying to do too much. Just get off to a good start and keep it rolling.”
The 32-year-old ace has been one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball over the past two seasons, posting a 2.05 ERA and 524 strikeouts in his previous 421.0 innings (64 starts) of work.
Now preparing for his sixth MLB season, the right-hander is working with a new pitching coach in Jeremy Hefner — one of the youngest coaches in baseball at just 34 years old — where there seems to be a large degree of trust.
“I’d call him after I threw, how it went, how many pitches,” deGrom said. “We came up with a schedule now where I feel like I should be ready.”
He threw 85 pitches during Sunday’s simulated action and expects to be ready to throw near 100 pitches per outing by Opening Day thanks to his work from home.
“I don’t take much time off, so it felt normal to keep throwing. I think the intensity was something that was new,” he admitted. “I don’t normally get in the bullpen and throw in the offseason, I usually wait till spring. But I was getting on the mound and throwing with intensity. I was able to get on the mound twice a week for I don’t know how many weeks… just trying to stay fresh.”
Don’t expect him to be used more often in the shortened 60-game season if other parts of the rotation struggle.
“I’d assume we’d stay on five days,” he said.
That shortened season, beginning for the Mets on July 24, would take something away from deGrom potentially winning a third-straight Cy Young Award, something that has only been done by Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux.
“I would say there has to be some difference there. Twelve starts versus 32, or however many you get… there’s a lot that can happen in any given start,” deGrom said. “You normally play 162 games and 200 innings, but I don’t think it’ll feel the same, but that would be the goal.”
“You take it as from the All-Star break on, do all you can do, and hopefully win another one.”
That same mindset doesn’t pertain to the Mets winning the World Series this year, which would end a 34-year drought.
“As far as a team coming together under these circumstances and figuring out a way to win, that’s a team effort that would take everybody following these guidelines to staying healthy and staying on the field and that’s something you should definitely celebrate,” he said.