SURPRISE, Arizona – Rangers Ace Jacob of Grom stood in front of his locker in the Texas clubhouse and smiled as if nothing had happened and it was a normal first day of camp. For him, it might as well have been, even after the somewhat disappointing news that tensions on the left side limited him from starting camp.
Just hours before the Rangers’ first official practice for pitchers and catchers on Wednesday, general manager Chris Young announced that deGrom felt “a little tightness” in his left side during his bullpen session a few days earlier . As a result, Young made the decision to Prevent DeGrom from throwing for a day or two as a precaution.
When he first spoke to the media on Thursday, deGrom downplayed the setback, noting that he was comfortable taking a small step back because of where he was in his preparation before arriving in Arizona.
“Given what I’ve been through the last few years, the last thing you want to do is come in and say, ‘Hey, my left side is a little sore,’” deGrom said. “But looking at the positive side of how I felt, I felt good. It was just like, “Hey, this is a little stiff,” and they relayed that message and then they told me to be smart about it and make sure it goes away before I go forward.
The concern is understandable given deGrom’s recent injury history.
deGrom began suffering minor back and right arm issues during the COVID-shortened 2020 season, then missed the entire second half of the ’21 season with right elbow inflammation. Before this injury, he had posted a 1.08 ERA in 92 innings. The following spring, deGrom suffered a stress reaction in his right shoulder blade, which kept him sidelined until early August. He ultimately pitched to a 3.08 ERA in 11 regular season starts in 2022.
Despite the long list of previous injuries, there is optimism about the latest setback. The “lateral stiffness” is much more manageable than any of his previous arm or shoulder injuries, and being on the non-throwing side adds extra comfort.
“I’ll be honest, I don’t consider it a health issue,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “I can’t tell you how many times in my 25 years of management we’ve done that to a pitcher, even a position player, just to give him an extra day or two. This was our call. …We took it away from him. We don’t see it like that. Of course, I know he’s Jacob deGrom, so that’s going to raise eyebrows, but not with us. And I can tell you that we have no worries. We just want to quell that and make sure it’s not something that’s hanging around. »
Bochy added that deGrom will be re-evaluated Friday before returning to the mound. deGrom left the mound for the last time about a week ago, before arriving in Arizona. The pain initially started while playing catch, and it persisted a bit even after stretching.
With the ace ahead of his pitching schedule — throwing all of his pitches instead of just fastballs and changeups — he, Young and Bochy all agreed to anticipate any potential issues that could have long-term effects.
“It’s Feb. 15, the goals are (to be healthy) at the start of the season, so don’t do anything stupid now,” deGrom said. “Like I said, how I prepared this offseason, with the amount of throwing – I made a lot of throwing, more than usual – just to be in a good position, and I was very annoyed by something small like that to pop. up. But the good side is how good my arm feels and where my stuff was to throw the mound at home.
Even with the setback, deGrom feels a sense of excitement in the first week of camp, being in the company of his new team with a group of players working toward the goal of winning a World Series.
“You come every year and you’re very optimistic,” deGrom said. “But like I said before, it all starts as soon as you step on the pitch. Everyone likes to talk about things, but let’s play baseball. Being surrounded by these guys and everyone pulling in the same direction with the same goals, I think we can do something special. That’s the point. »