Plans for the New York Mets' pitching rotation are cybershared among a few dozen club employees, the names of the projected starters punched onto a spreadsheet. Separately, manager Buck Showalter maintains a month-deep pitching calendar that covers most of a wall in his office, giving him a quick point of reference as he sits at his desk at Citi Field.
But early-season events have reminded Showalter, general manager Billy Eppler and the others at the top of the Mets' hierarchy how fragile the state of any rotation can be and how quickly careful arrangements can fall apart through a series of injuries. Jacob deGrom was supposed to be Showalter's starter in the first game of the season, and when deGrom went down due to shoulder trouble, Max Scherzer was Plan B; but when Scherzer was unavailable because of a hamstring issue, Tylor Megill got the ball and threw five scoreless innings.
Six weeks later, deGrom, Scherzer and Megill are all on the injured list.
"You might get six or seven days into your pitching [plan]," Showalter said, "and then something happens and everything changes."
Through all of the unpredictable circumstances, however, the Mets' rotation has been consistently effective, backed by one of the best offenses of 2022. The starters' ERA of 3.90 ranks a respectable 13th among the 30 MLB teams, and there is optimism for improvement, particularly as deGrom and Scherzer continue to recover from their respective injuries.
A scapula problem sidelined DeGrom at the end of spring training; when he next pitches in a big league game, he might well be beyond the one-year anniversary of his last start for the Mets, which occurred July 7, 2021. But he has been throwing with increasing volume and intensity, and a few days ago, he traveled from Florida to Queens for the next stage of his rehabilitation; the team's plans are for him to stay with the club through their upcoming road trip. The Mets' staff has been careful to not publicly project timelines around deGrom's return, instead deferring to the team's medical staff. Barring a setback though, he'll soon graduate to throwing to hitters and then move onto a minor league rehabilitation assignment.
Others in the organization who have chatted with deGrom at Citi Field in recent days have sensed how much he greatly anticipates joining the other Mets on the field and being a part of what they are putting together this year. Showalter, who is in his first season as Mets manager, remembers hearing about how deGrom was unique as a competitor. After watching him make a few spring starts and seeing his intensity in the dugout, Showalter said, "I was like: 'OK, I got it.'"
"He's a watcher. He's one of those guys who will get to his locker and he'll watch the room," the manager explained. "He sees everything. If you want to know, he's got an opinion, but he's not out there giving it."