Jacob deGrom made his official debut with the Texas Rangers today. He made it through his start and is lined up to pitch again next week. It is an act for deGrom that seems normal, but was considered extraordinary according to the New York media that criticized the Rangers' decision to sign deGrom last December. The same media who said that the Mets got better by signing Verlander and letting deGrom go are now having to eat their words as Verlander will miss the start of the season with a low grade muscle strain in his shoulder.
Just remember that Justin Verlander is 40-years old and Jacob deGrom is still just 35 years old and has much less wear and tear on his arm. The statements made by writers such as Jon Heyman and others were ridiculous when they were originally made and they are even more so now. I hope Verlander comes back healthy, but he is now over 40 years old, and players that age normally do not stay healthy.
deGrom today was not as good as he would have liked to have been. His final numbers were 3.2 innings, 5 earned runs, 7 strikeouts, no walks, and 6 hits allowed. All of the hits were extra base hits. He gave up a home run, two triples, and three doubles. Lets go over his start inning by inning.
The first inning was by far his best inning. The sellout crowd was juiced and the matchup that everyone has been waiting for all offseason took place in the top of the first. It was Jacob deGrom versus Team USA hero from the WBC Trea Turner. deGrom struck him out on three pitches. It was low fastball, low slider, and then a slider that Turner swung at that was out of the strikezone. He was at 99mph on the fastball and then around 92 mph on the sliders. Then he got Schwarber out on a weak fly ball to center field on the second pitch. Then he got J.T. Realmuto out on a 101mph fastball that was low and away. He went easily through the top of the order on 10 pitches in the first. It looked like the start of a dominant outing. In the first the fastball was popping, his control was there, and the hitters looked overmatched.
The second inning came and it was still 0-0. He quickly dispatched of Darick Hall on four pitches, but one thing about this at-bat that was not a positive indicator is he fell in love with his 100mph fastball. He got Hall to hit a pop up to Josh Jung in foul territory on a fastball that was up and in. He was really going after that quadrant that up and inside and he hit it consistently and got a weak foul pop-up.
Next was Nick Castellanos. He went fastball on the first pitch against Castellanos and he hit his spot down and away, but Castellanos swung the bat head out there and hit a weak line drive over Nathaniel Lowe into the right field corner for a double. The exit velocity was 80.5mph on the double. Not exactly hard hit, but just very well placed. That was a pattern that would continue throughout his start.
Coming up after Castellanos was Bryson Stott. This is the at-bat in my opinion that changed everything. Stott ultimately struck out in the at-bat, but not before extending the at-bat to eight pitches. deGrom quickly got to 0-2 on Stott, but could not put him away. He threw a ball high on the third pitch. Then Stott went to work fouling off the next three pitches. He three two fastballs and a slider and couldn't put Stott away. Then he threw a curveball in the dirt to get to 2-2. He finally on the 8th pitch put Stott away with a fastball that looked to be inside. By this point he was already at 13 pitches in the inning.
The next batter was Alec Bohm. Bohm prior to today was 0-8 against deGrom with five strikeouts. He started off the at-bat with a slider down and away, then a fastball that was high and very far away from the strike zone. The count was 2-0 and he threw another fastball that was high and right over the plate. Bohm was right on it and hit it out into right-center field. That made the score 2-0. deGrom commented after the game that it was that pitch that he wishes he could have back.
The final batter of the inning was Jake Cave. deGrom continued to struggle with his fastball command. He started Cave off 3-1 as he was missing high with his fastball. He came back with two more fastballs. One touched the outside corner and was called strike two. The final pitch was down and away and was called strike three.
deGrom ended the second inning down 2-0 after the second inning. Before the Stott at-bat his command was fine, but it deserted him during that at-bat. He threw 22 pitches in that inning, 12 strikes, 7 balls, and 3 balls were put into play. The score was just 2-0 though after the second inning. He got out of the inning with two more strikeouts.
Now we go to the third inning. This was his worst inning of the game. It was the inning that really kept him from going into the fifth or sixth inning. He came in with 31 pitches on the inning.
The first batter was Brandon Marsh. Marsh started off 1-1 after a first-pitch strike on a fastball, then a ball on a slider. Then on the third pitch, deGrom tried to sneak a fastball by him on the inside corner to the left-handed hitting Marsh. Marsh brought his hands in and was able to line the ball down the first ball line in the corner for a leadoff triple. The exit velocity on the triple was 91.7mph.
Trea Turner was the next batter. He wasted no time. After a called strike slider on the first pitch, he then took the slider on the next pitch and went opposite field and again down the right field line. He drove in Marsh and ended up at third base on another triple. The exit velocity on the Turner triple was just 69mph. These batters other than Bohm are not making hard contact. The balls are just being placed perfectly.
The Phillies were up 3-0 now with the powerful Kyle Schwarber coming to the plate and Turner on third. This at-bat was a struggle not just with his control but with his pitchcom device. Schwarber went up there aggresive and really bailed out deGrom. Schwarber went up 1-0 on the count, then swung at the next two pitches. Both of the pitches were inside. Then on the fourth pitch he threw a changeup that bounced off the dirt for a wild pitch that scored Turner from third. Schwarber came back and fouled off the next pitch, which was another ball. Then the pitchcom died on deGrom and there was a long delay while they waited for it to be changed out. Finally he got Schwarber to strike out on a fastball that was very high.
The next batter was Oklahoma native J.T. Realmuto the Phillies catcher. deGrom at this point was really battling with his command. He started off Realmuto with two pitches that were very far outside. The first was a slider outside, then a fastball well off the outside corner. The third pitch he took something off the slider and located right in the middle of the strike zone. Then down 2-1 in the count he came back with a nasty slider that was down and away that Realmuto flared over the head of Nathaniel Lowe. He ended up with a double that had an exit velocity of 61.4mph. Another soft hit that went for extra bases.
The score was 4-0 at this point and only one out with Darick Hall coming to the plate and a runner on third. deGrom gained back control of his fastball at this point on pitch 48. He was able to better place the ball on the edges of the strike zone, but then he lost control of his slider. He jumped ahead 1-2 on the count with fastballs, but then he bounced two sliders to take the count to 3-2. One of those sliders resulted in a wild pitch that Heim failed to come up with allowing Realmuto to advance to third. deGrom rallied though and got Hall to fly out to Garcia in center and Garcia held Realmuto at 3b and the score remained 4-0.
The last batter in the inning was Castellanos. This was probably deGrom's best at-bat of the inning. The fastball and slider command returned. He started off Castellanos with two great sliders that were just right outside the strike zone and Castellanos swung at both of them to go down 0-2. He then shook off Heim and continued to throw sliders to see if he could get Castellanos to chase. Neither slide was close and Castellanos evened the count at 2-2. He then threw a fastball to keep him honest and then finished him off with another slider for his sixth strikeout of the game.
This inning it was clear deGrom did not have his best stuff, but it is also why he is arguably the best pitcher in the league. He made adjustments in the middle of the inning and kept Realmuto from scoring the fifth run of the game and stranded him at third. The strikeout of Castellanos also goes to show that despite his lack of control he can quickly regain that control and get a strikeout when he needs it the most. The score was now 4-0 in favor of the Phillies and would remain that way as deGrom came back out for the fourth inning.
He started off the fourth inning at 60 pitches and was nearing his limit. He went into the inning knowing that this would likely be the last inning of his night.
Bryson Stott led off the inning. Stott had frustrated him in the second inning with three consecutive foul balls would not have as much success his second time against deGrom. deGrom went after Stott with three pitches all on the higher side of the strikezone, then went down and away with a changeup that Stott fouled off. The count was 1-2 and deGrom got Stott to chase a fastball that inside and high out of the strike zone for the seventh strikeout of the night for deGrom.
The next batter was Alec Bohm who was really the star of the night for the Phillies. deGrom was attacking Bohm away, away, and away. All three pitches were down and away, but in the strike zone. deGrom went slider, fastball, and slider. On the third pitch Bohm lined it opposite field to the right field corner again for a double. The exit velocity on this double was higher at 99.2mph.
deGrom was at 68 pitches at this point. It is more pitches than he has thrown in any of his spring training starts. His control against Jake Cave, who came up next, was not great. He started off with a strike that was in the zone. Then came back with three straight balls. Maddux went out to visit after deGrom fell behind 2-1. He responded with another fastball high to run the count to 3-1. Then on his 73rd and last pitch of the night he pumped a fastball into the strike zone and Cave lined it hard out to left center field and Garcia ran it down for the second out of the inning.
Cole Ragans was brought in and he proceeded to allow a leadoff double to Brandon Marsh to score the fifth run and final run charged to deGrom.
Conclusions to take from deGrom's first start
I do think there are positives to take away from the game. First the velocity was there all night. He was regularly between 98mph and 101mph. He threw more 100mph fastballs in this game than the Rangers as a team did in all of 2022. The ability to make in-game adjustments and middle-of-the-inning adjustments was there. His control was not as good as it had been in Surprise. It seemed like in the second and third innings he wasn't sure where his fastball or slider would end up once it left his hand. He battled through and deserves credit for that.
The Phillies may be missing Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins, but they still do have several really good hitters in that lineup. The Phillies had several good at-bats and they obviously had a game plan to try and not do too much with the fastball. If the fastball is away then hit it opposite field. They did that all day long against deGrom peppering the right field line. He ended up giving up six hits all for extra bases, but three of them had an exit velocity of 80mph or less. Better control will lead to more efficiency, which should help him pitch deeper in his next start against the Orioles in the last game of the homestand.
The great thing is despite his struggles the Rangers still got the come from behind win as they scored 9 runs in the bottom of the fourth and won 11-7 to start the season 1-0. A fun game that showed the potential that deGrom has and also gives him areas to work on before his next start.