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Mets scratch Jacob deGrom as elbow pain lingers

NEW YORK -- The Mets have likely lost top starter Jacob deGrom for the season after the right-hander experienced pain in his elbow Friday.

General manager Sandy Alderson said the pain is ulnar nerve-related and likely will require surgery. The Mets believe deGrom is experiencing something common for pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery: a buildup of scar tissue that presses on the nerve.

"It's unlikely he'll pitch again this season," Alderson said.

DeGrom had the Tommy John surgery when he was a minor leaguer in 2010, although he said a recent MRI showed no structural damage.

"I've been through Tommy John before, and I definitely don't want to go through that again, so I think this is good news compared to what it could've been," he said.

Alderson said it's not unusual that an issue with scar tissue could arise even this far removed from Tommy John surgery.

DeGrom, 7-8 with a 3.04 ERA, had thrown a pain-free bullpen session before batting practice Friday, leading to him being cleared to start Sunday against the Minnesota Twins. He ran sprints and then took his spot in the outfield shagging flies.

He felt pain in the elbow while throwing a ball back to the infield and knew it was a problem.

"I just tried to lob it into the bucket, and I guess throwing that bullpen messed with that nerve, and after I threw it I said, 'OK, I've got to go say something,'" deGrom said. "One throw, that I felt it on, and it was definitely disappointing."

Mets manager Terry Collins will use members of his 12-man bullpen to get through Sunday's game. Gabriel Ynoa (1-0, 15.19 ERA) will start vs. the Twins.

New York had to use eight pitchers to get through its 3-2, 12-inning win against the Twins on Saturday night.

Earlier in the day, DeGrom said he has been experiencing numbness in his ring and pinkie fingers for weeks, and that there was actual pain when he was last on the mound Sept. 1, when he gave up three runs in five innings and suffered a third loss in as many starts. Over the two previous starts, he gave up an uncharacteristic 13 runs in 9.2 innings, but he felt the numbness returning even before that.

"I haven't felt it all year. It might've been five or six starts ago," he said. "I had a couple of good ones with it -- when the fingers were going numb -- and I was just like 'alright, whatever.' Then I had a couple of bad ones and I don't think that's the reason I had bad starts. I just think I just wasn't able to throw the ball where I wanted to because I wasn't feeling really any different than when I had the good ones.

"But now it's kind of turned into a pain, and we want to get that taken care of."

DeGrom said the surgery to liberate the ulnar nerve could either involve removing scar tissue or relocating the nerve itself. There is a typical three-month recovery period.

Alderson added that the procedure is "not a significant surgical procedure, at least with respect to risk going forward, but it's something that will have to take place at some point."

Both Alderson and deGrom left open the possibility of trying to get the ace back on the mound before the end of the season, but it remains a longshot because, as Alderson noted, "the fact that this thing flares up at unpredictable times and unpredictable circumstances."

The Mets have been getting rotation help from call-ups Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo. The team has stabilized a rotation that lost Matt Harvey to season-ending surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome; the Mets have been without Steven Matz for a month and deGrom for two weeks.

Since deGrom was sidelined, the Mets have won nine of 13.

The news still soured things at Citi Field, where the Mets hosted the Twins on Saturday on "Jacob deGrom Hair Hat" night. They entered the night two games ahead of the Cardinals for the second National League wild-card spot.

"[This is] nothing any more damaging than the other ones that we've had and didn't expect," Collins said. "I actually watched Jake's bullpen yesterday and it was outstanding. And 15 minutes after batting practice was over, he walked in and said, 'I can't pitch.' He explained what happened and you shake your head and the next thought is, 'Who is going to pitch?' "So you've got to move on and find somebody we think can get somebody out. We'll go from there."

With deGrom lost, Bartolo Colon (30) and Noah Syndergaard (28) will be the only Mets pitchers to make 25-plus starts this season. Last year, Colon (31), deGrom (30), Harvey (29) and Jon Niese (29) all did so.

DeGrom threw 191 innings in the regular season last year -- 216 counting the playoffs. His previous high for innings in pro baseball was 178.2 in 2014, when he was called up in May from the minors for the first time.

Information from ESPN Stats & Information was used in this report.

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