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Mets’ Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz are poised to return to the rotation

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The Mets’ rotation is working its way back up to full strength, and if all goes well this weekend, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz could find themselves contributing to the playoff race as soon as Sunday.

According to MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, deGrom will get the ball for Sunday’s series finale against the Twins, but will be operating under a strict 75-pitch cap as the Mets try to suss out the extent of his range after missing 17 days with right forearm tightness. deGrom was shelved after a rough outing against the Marlins on September 1, when he took his eighth loss of the season with three runs and four walks over five innings. There’s a bigger picture to look at here, with deGrom’s 3.32 FIP and 3.04 ERA coming in 9th- and 11th-best among major league starters, but his effectiveness from this point through the end of the regular season will depend on his ability to both stay healthy and regain the command he exhibited earlier in the year.

Left-hander Steven Matz, who hit the disabled list in August with left shoulder tightness, is facing a tougher path to recovery. After throwing 20 pitches in an abbreviated bullpen session on Wednesday, Matz will get a full session on Saturday, which should give the Mets some indication of his ability to rejoin the team for a final postseason push. Prior to his injury, Matz responded to his first full season in the majors with 2.8 fWAR and a 3.40 ERA in 132 ⅓ innings.

It’s difficult to understate the pivotal timing of the the starters’ return. Despite the 18 pitchers on their 40-man roster, the Mets are still struggling to piece together a serviceable rotation beyond Noah Syndergaard and the occasionally brilliant, sometime-home run hitter Bartolo Colon. They’re one game up on the Cardinals in the wild card standings, who have gone 4-6 in their last ten games and have also made some last-minute adjustments to their rotation. While defending their postseason spot with a hodgepodge of contributors (among them, the recently-demoted Rafael Montero and recently-promoted rookies Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman) isn’t out of the question, it’s difficult to imagine a prolonged stay in the playoffs without deGrom and Matz bolstering the rotation.

Madison Bumgarner has been competing in rodeos under a fake name

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The Athletic’s Andrew Baggarly and Zach Buchanan report that Diamondbacks starter Madison Bumgarner has been competing in rodeos under a fake name as recently as December. The fake name is Mason Saunders. Bumgarner explains that “Mason” is shortened from “Madison,” while “Saunders” is his wife’s maiden name.

Bumgarner — err, Saunders — and one of his rodeo partners, Jaxson Tucker, won $26,560 in a team-roping rodeo competition in December. The Rancho Rio Arena posted a picture of the pair on Facebook, highlighting that they roped four steers in 31.36 seconds.

As Baggarly and Buchanan point out, Bumgarner also pointed out in a rodeo competition last March, just a couple days before pitching in a Cactus League game versus the Athletics, back when he was still with the Giants.

Bumgarner suffered bruised ribs and a left shoulder AC sprain in 2017 when he got into a dirt bike accident. Given that, Bumgarner’s latest extracurricular activity does raise a concern for the Diamondbacks, who inked him to a five-year, $85 million contract two months ago. Baggarly and Buchanan asked Bumgarner about such a concern. Bumgarner referred them to the club’s managing partner Ken Kendrick. Kendrick directed them to GM Mike Hazen. Hazen declined speaking about “specific contract language.” For what it’s worth, Bumgarner says he primarily uses his right hand to rope.

The jig is up on Bumgarner’s hobby. He jokingly said to The Athletic’s pair, “I’m nervous about this interview right now.” He added, “I’m upset with both you two.”