LOS ANGELES -- When Jacob deGrom takes the mound Saturday night at Dodger Stadium, the purpose runs deeper than just getting him back on the bump after a stint on the DL.
The rookie right-hander threw 147 2/3 innings throughout the minors last season, and because he missed a couple of turns with rotator-cuff tendinitis, he won’t have a hard cap on his innings the rest of the way. If deGrom takes every fifth turn in the rotation, he would have seven more starts this season, including Saturday’s.
New York Mets
The Mets see deGrom as a big part of their future. Because of that, they want him pitching through the end of the season. The advantage being he will know what it feels like to make late-September starts now, preparing him for upcoming seasons when the Mets hope to be a playoff contender.
“He’s been a huge part of our starting staff. This guy’s gotta be a candidate for rookie of the year with the job he’s done, with the numbers he’s put up,” manager Terry Collins said. “We have to make sure we get him through the next six weeks healthy.
“There’s a lot of advantage to [pitching through September], and that is to learn how to do it. For players who have never had to play or pitch through that sixth month, that’s a tough task. ... That’s when all the pennant races are and that‘s when it counts. To have him pitch through September, that’s a big help when we get into a pennant race.”
Had deGrom not missed those last two starts, it is likely the Mets were going to cap his innings next month and it was possible he would be shut down before the end of the season. Sandy Alderson has said he does not want deGrom to exceed roughly 185 innings.
When it was announced Tuesday that deGrom would be Saturday’s starter, the 26-year-old said the injury might have been a blessing because it will allow him to pitch through the end of September.
Including seven starts at Triple-A Las Vegas, deGrom has thrown 138 2/3 innings this season.
“This is good for me,” deGrom said Friday. “You want to go out and pitch as much as you can. I’ve never thrown this much before.”
The number of starts for deGrom could be cut back next month when rosters expand. The Mets have kicked around the idea of a six-man rotation down the stretch, and if that happens it would assure deGrom won’t be held back by innings because he’ll get fewer turns.
“If we do bring another starter up and we do go to a sixth man, there’s nothing wrong with that,” Collins said. “As long as we don’t have to skip him, as long as we don’t have to not pitch him, even if it’s every sixth day instead of every fifth day, he’ll still get through that last month and that will help him.”