Jacob deGrom has been out since early July. The New York Mets are finally admitting he was more hurt than previously believed.
Mets president Sandy Alderson told reporters on Tuesday that his team's ace sustained a sprain, identified as a mild tear, of the UCL in his pitching arm. Alderson claimed the sprain has since healed and deGrom's elbow ligament is "perfectly intact."
"So a sprain is the lowest-grade partial tear, if you will. So at this point, the sprain has resolved itself. The elbow is, at this point, perfectly intact, based on the MRIs and our clinical evaluation through our doctors. That's just a technical term the doctors have used, we don't use it routinely, but it's another term for a very mild ligament condition."
Sandy Alderson provides an update on Jacob deGrom:
"It's a very low grade thing that has resolved itself" pic.twitter.com/0PNsyeLncy
— SNY (@SNYtv) September 7, 2021
For months, the Mets had indicated deGrom wasn't being shut down due to structural damage in his arm, but this update plainly contradicts that. Even a UCL sprain can be a precursor to Tommy John surgery, which would knock out deGrom for the rest of the 2021 season and most if not all of the 2022 season.
Alderson still downplayed the seriousness of deGrom's injury, erroneously claiming that a bruise is also a partial tear of a muscle, via Newsday's Tim Healey:
"Somebody goes out with a headline that it’s a partial tear, that’s what a bruise is. A bruise is a partial tear of the muscle, OK? So let’s not go out there and write as if this is anything new. It’s not. It’s a very low-grade thing that has resolved itself."
It should be noted that Anderson is completely wrong there. A bruise is not a partial tear of a muscle, it's what happens when blood vessels under the skin rupture, causing blood cells to discolor the surface of an area of skin. Could Alderson have been thinking of a muscle strain, in which muscle tissue is overextended or even torn? It's hard to say.
Will Jacob deGrom return this season? Should he?
The revelation comes as deGrom looks close to finally resuming what had been a historically dominant season until it was swallowed by repeated health issues. DeGrom was seen throwing on the field during the team's road series against the Miami Marlins, more than a week after his latest MRI:
Jacob deGrom continues throwing while down in Miami pic.twitter.com/jT1XnbCMVG
— SNY (@SNYtv) September 7, 2021
There remains no timetable for deGrom's return despite his latest progress, and it's worth wondering if a return is worth it at all at this point.
Even if Alderson says deGrom's elbow is intact now, the Mets are 69-69 and four games back in the NL East and 4.5 games back out of the second wild-card spot with 24 games left to play. If the team is in a similar position in a week or two, bringing back deGrom could be a high-risk, low-reward proposition.
DeGrom currently holds a 1.08 ERA with 146 strikeouts in 92 innings across 15 starts. He was in consideration for not just a third Cy Young Award, but MVP consideration until health issues prevented him from pitching. Those issues came up repeatedly in May and June, when deGrom exited games or missed starts with right lat inflammation, tightness in his right side, right elbow tendinitis and right shoulder soreness at different points.