JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom was scratched from his scheduled start Friday and will get an MRI after feeling tightness in his pitching shoulder, putting his status for opening day in jeopardy.
Mets manager Buck Showalter was still awaiting word on results of the exam shortly before the start of Friday's spring training game against St. Louis.
DeGrom first experienced the tightness while playing catch a day earlier.
The two-time Cy Young Award winner is slated to start the season opener Thursday in Washington.
It’s concerning news for the Mets, who have big plans this season after signing fellow ace Max Scherzer to join deGrom atop a terrific rotation.
Showalter is already working on contingency plans should the MRI results prove unfavorable.
“Does he need to pitch another live game before he opens the season? In a perfect world, yes, we’d like to see him do that — and recover from that,” Showalter said of deGrom.
If deGrom can’t pitch opening day, the ball would almost certainly go to Scherzer.
The three-time Cy Young award winner is scheduled to throw seven innings and fewer than 100 pitches against Mets minor leaguers in a simulated game Saturday. James McCann will catch Scherzer. The remainder of the major club has a scheduled off day.
If all goes well in the simulated game, Scherzer would be available to pitch opening day on five days rest.
“He would be comfortable, yes,” Showalter said.
Showalter’s comfort level throwing Scherzer on opening day — should he have to — isn’t as high.
“Not yet,” Showalter said. “We’ll see how tomorrow goes.”
Chris Bassist, Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker comprise the remainder of the Mets rotation.
Showalter designed the spring rotation to give each pitcher five days of rest before their first regular season appearance.
If deGrom isn’t ready for opening day, projecting the rotation might not be as simple as moving each pitcher up one day.
“I’d really like to stay away from changing four guys’ plans that were carefully scripted to begin the season with an extra days’ rest going in,” Showalter said.
Should deGrom miss meaningful time, right-hander Tylor MeGill or left-hander David Peterson are the most likely options to join the Mets rotation. MeGill went 4-6 with a 4.52 ERA in 18 starts last year – his lone major league season. In 25 appearances, 24 starts, across the past two seasons, Peterson is 8-8 with a 4.64 ERA.
After getting off to a sensational start last year, deGrom didn’t pitch during the second half because of a sprained elbow. He was 7-2 with a 1.08 ERA in 15 outings, but New York collapsed without him to finish 77-85 after leading the NL East for 103 days. His final start was July 7 against Milwaukee.
The right-hander reported to camp healthy this year and has permitted one run over five innings in Grapefruit League games, striking out 10. His most recent outing was Sunday against the Cardinals.
Earlier in camp, deGrom said he plans to opt out of his contract after this season and become a free agent.
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