deGrom strong before lat tightness ends day

No MRI scheduled for right-hander, who attributed issue to elements

deGrom strong before lat tightness ends day

NEW YORK -- The warning signs were there for Jacob deGrom, even amid his success. On the stat sheet, deGrom looked the same as always during the early innings of the Mets' 7-2 win over the Phillies in Friday's home opener at Citi Field, striking out handfuls of batters and limiting them to scattered singles, nothing more.

But on the scoreboard, Citi Field's LED lights told a different story. Typically 95 mph or more, deGrom's velocity sagged throughout the afternoon into the low-90s. He topped out at 93. And he eventually left with a sore right lat muscle, which the Mets consider minor. deGrom was not scheduled to undergo anything more than cursory testing -- no MRI -- and planned to gauge his status by playing catch Saturday.

"I'm hoping it was the elements," deGrom said of Queens temperatures that dipped into the mid-40s, the day's bluster portending a possible weekend snowfall. "I'm not really that worried about it."

The Mets, however, have reason for at least some concern. After deGrom gave up his only run of the day in the sixth inning, he briefed Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen on what he was feeling. Manager Terry Collins immediately made a decision, replacing deGrom with a pinch-hitter after only 76 pitches.

Though this particular issue may be new for deGrom, back and arm issues -- the lat is a conduit between those two areas of the body -- are not. Earlier this spring, deGrom missed a Grapefruit League start due to a lower back issue that he considers unrelated. Early last summer, deGrom fought off shoulder soreness that wound up proving inconsequential.

This is a new issue, which the Mets will watch with prudence. It was only 10 months ago that fellow Mets starter Steven Matz complained of mild lat tightness following his big league debut at Citi Field. The Mets started him a week later anyway at Dodger Stadium, where he wound up tearing the muscle and missing two months.

They cannot afford a similar scenario with deGrom, statistically their best pitcher last season.

"We'll know more [Saturday]," Collins said. "But we'll be careful of it."

Entering Friday, the Mets were worried only about deGrom's wife, who was three days overdue with the couple's first child. But when the two spoke several hours before game time, Stacey deGrom assured him that doctors did not expect her to go into labor.

So deGrom walked into his start with confidence, even as his velocity went missing. Painting the corners with low-90s fastballs and mixing in plenty of offspeed pitches, deGrom retired seven straight at one point and 12 of 13, before the Phillies rallied against him in the sixth.

"The velocity was down a couple of ticks than it normally is, but his location was tremendous," Collins said of deGrom, who allowed one run on five hits in six innings. "His changeup was good. He used his breaking ball. Had his back not stiffened up, he'd have gone back out. I thought he threw the ball great. I really did. He moved it around. I think as it warms up maybe … as long as Jake feels good, he'll get his velocity back."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.