SURPRISE,miền nam Ariz. -- Dozens of Texas Rangers players, coaches, front-office members and other staffers congregated between two of the back fields at Surprise Stadium's sprawling complex on Thursday morning, keeping their eyes fixed on one of the furthest bullpens, where Jacob deGrom, about a week removed from suffering tightness in his left side, got off the mound for the first time with his new team.
DeGrom threw just over 20 pitches, all of them fastballs, and was told to keep it "nice and easy."
"It's a small step," he said later, "but a step in the right direction."
DeGrom, 34, was signed to a five-year, $185 million contract over the offseason, a commensurate sum given his outsized talent, but a risky investment given his checkered injury history.
Armed with arguably the best stuff in the sport, deGrom won back-to-back National League Cy Young Awards while with the New York Mets in 2018 and 2019 but has accumulated only 156⅓ innings -- albeit with a 1.90 ERA and 248 strikeouts -- over the past two years.
DeGrom missed the second half of the 2021 season with inflammation in his right elbow, then missed the first four months of the 2022 season with a stress reaction in his right scapula. When another issue prompted him to skip his first bullpen session with the Rangers, concern from the outside ratcheted up to an uncommon level. The Rangers, however, stressed that it was a precautionary decision.
DeGrom first experienced tightness in his left side early last week and took four days off from throwing. The pain, he said, quickly relieved itself and didn't show up when he finally got back on the mound again on Thursday. DeGrom believes he still has time to catch up to the other starting pitchers and be ready for Opening Day, largely because he threw as many as six bullpen sessions before the start of spring training.
"That was way more than I normally throw," deGrom said, "so I felt like my arm was in a good spot. That's why, talking to the training staff and [pitching coach Mike Maddux], and taking the four days, we didn't think it was that big of a deal. We still have time to ramp up. Where I was at coming in, armwise, we felt like we were in a good spot."
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