DeGrom resumes throwing, Syndergaard set for rehab stint

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Mets ace Jacob deGrom played catch at Citi Field after an MRI showed improvement with the right forearm tightness that has sidelined him since July 7, while Noah Syndergaard will begin a minor league rehab assignment with High-A Brooklyn on Thursday.

It was the first time deGrom played catch since being shut down from throwing entirely four weeks ago.

“We’ll see where we go from here,” manager Luis Rojas said. “There’s not a progression mapped out yet on how things are going to keep going, but at least getting to play catch today, that’s great news for us.”

Rojas did not know details of what the MRI showed, except there was enough improvement for doctors to clear him for throwing.

Zack Scott, New York’s acting general manager, said Tuesday that deGrom would have the imaging reviewed by Dr. David Altchek, and if Altchek cleared him, the two-time Cy Young Award winner would begin a throwing program immediately.

DeGrom was transferred to the 60-day injured list last weekend and isn’t eligible to return until Sept. 13. Scott said Tuesday that deGrom was unlikely to be ready by that date even if he did resume throwing this week.

Scott said the team planned to get deGrom back in game action even if New York falls further out of postseason contention to better evaluate his health going forward.

DeGrom is 7-2 with a 1.08 ERA in 15 starts this year and was on track for a third Cy Young before his season was derailed by injuries. Even with all the missed time, his 4.9 wins above replacement (WAR, per FanGraphs) ranks third in the National League behind Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes (5.9) and Philadelphia’s Zack Wheeler (5.8).

Syndergaard had Tommy John surgery March 26, 2020, and is still recovering. He was shut down from a minor league rehab assignment in May with elbow discomfort but had resumed throwing live batting practice.

Rojas said Syndergaard will pitch one inning with the Cyclones on Thursday. The club plans to bring the right-hander back as a reliever to shorten the length of his rehab stint.

Francisco Lindor was out of New York’s lineup for a game against San Francisco a day after ending a five-week absence with a right oblique strain. Rojas said Lindor felt good but the team planned to be cautious since Lindor didn’t play any minor league games before returning.

Yankees star Judge hits 61st home run, ties Maris’ AL record

aaron judge
Cole Burston/Getty Images
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TORONTO — Aaron Judge tied Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs in a season, hitting a tiebreaking, two-run drive for the New York Yankees in the seventh inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday night.

The 30-year-old slugger drove a 94.5 mph belt-high sinker with a full-count from left-hander Tim Mayza over the left-field fence at Rogers Centre. The 117.4 mph drive took just 3.8 seconds to land 394 feet from the plate, and it put the Yankees ahead 5-3.

Judge watched the ball clank off the front of the stands, just below two fans who reached over a railing and tried for a catch. He pumped an arm just before reaching first and exchanged a slap with coach Travis Chapman.

The ball dropped into Toronto’s bullpen and was picked up by Blue Jays bullpen coach Matt Buschmann, who turned it over to the Yankees.

Judge’s mother and Roger Maris Jr. rose and hugged from front-row seats. He appeared to point toward them after rounding second base, then was congratulated by the entire Yankees team, who gave him hugs after he crossed the plate.

Judge moved past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league mark until Maris broke it in 1961. All three stars reached those huge numbers playing for the Yankees.

Barry Bonds holds the big league record of 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001.

Judge had gone seven games without a home run – his longest drought this season was nine in mid-August. This was the Yankees’ 155th game of the season, leaving them seven more in the regular season.

The home run came in the fourth plate appearance of the night for Judge, ending a streak of 34 plate appearances without a home run.

Judge is hitting .313 with 130 RBIs, also the top totals in the AL. He has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012.

Maris hit No. 61 for the Yankees on Oct. 1, 1961, against Boston Red Sox pitcher Tracy Stallard.

Maris’ mark has been exceeded six times, but all have been tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year, and Bonds topped him. Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris the holder of the “clean” record.

Among the tallest batters in major league history, the 6-foot-7 Judge burst on the scene on Aug. 13, 2016, homering off the railing above Yankee Stadium’s center-field sports bar and into the netting above Monument Park. He followed Tyler Austin to the plate and they become the first teammates to homer in their first major league at-bats in the same game.

Judge hit 52 homers with 114 RBIs the following year and was a unanimous winner of the AL Rookie of the Year award. Injuries limited him during the following three seasons, and he rebounded to hit 39 homers with 98 RBIs in 2021.

As he approached his last season before free agent eligibility, Judge on opening day turned down the Yankees’ offer of an eight-year contract worth from $230.5 million to $234.5 million. The proposal included an average of $30.5 million annually from 2023-29, with his salary this year to be either the $17 million offered by the team in arbitration or the $21 million requested by the player.

An agreement was reached in June on a $19 million, one-year deal, and Judge heads into this offseason likely to get a contract from the Yankees or another team for $300 million or more, perhaps topping $400 million.

Judge hit six homers in April, 12 in May and 11 in June. He earned his fourth All-Star selection and entered the break with 33 homers. He had 13 homers in July and dropped to nine in August, when injuries left him less protected in the batting order and pitchers walked him 25 times.

He became just the fifth player to hold a share of the AL season record. Nap Lajoie hit 14 in the AL’s first season as a major league in 1901, and Philadelphia Athletics teammate Socks Seabold had 16 the next year, a mark that stood until Babe Ruth hit 29 in 1919. Ruth set the record four times in all, with 54 in 1920, 59 in 1921 and 60 in 1927, a mark that stood until Maris’ 61 in 1961.

Maris was at 35 in July 1961 during the first season each team’s schedule increased from 154 games to 162, and baseball Commissioner Ford Frick ruled if anyone topped Ruth in more than 154 games “there would have to be some distinctive mark in the record books to show that Babe Ruth’s record was set under a 154-game schedule.”

That “distinctive mark” became known as an “asterisk” and it remained until Sept. 4, 1991, when a committee on statistical accuracy chaired by Commissioner Fay Vincent voted unanimously to recognize Maris as the record holder.