Max Scherzer’s presence takes pressure off returning Jacob deGrom to be Mets ace

The Titular ace of the Mets’ rotation went to work on Wednesday.

So did Max Scherzer.

For 264 miles away from where Birthday Boy Max took the ball in Queens for the finale of the first installment of the Subway Series, Jacob deGrom was on the mound in Syracuse for the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate for what has been portrayed as his final rehab start.

And, wait for it, the plan is to have deGrom join Scherzer in the big league rotation the next time around. There should be no issue waiting just a little bit longer after a more than a calendar year of false starts.

Or, more accurately in Mets parlance, no starts at all since July 7, 2021.

Buck Showalter responded to deGrom’s rehab outing — in which he was touched for a pair of second-inning home runs by the Royals’ affiliate en route to allowing four runs on two hits while walking three in four innings — with a what-me-worry? attitude.

“He was fine in all the things we might have been concerned about,” the Mets manager said. “We’ll gather more information, but we hope his next outing is with us.

“That’s the plan right now if everything progresses.”

Max Scherzer
Jason Szenes

The jolt of having deGrom on the mound — in a real live pennant race with the Braves, in which it is vital for the Mets to win the division and thus escape the best-of-three first round — is incalculable.

No, it really is. Because though everyone will be overjoyed when deGrom slips into one of the Mets’ No. 48 uniform ensembles, it is all but impossible to project how much he will be of what he once was.

Is it realistic to expect DeGrom to be the immediate ace of the rotation after this much time away? Is the right-hander to be graded on a curve, and if so, on which one?

Would it be The deGrom Curve under which he would be saddled with a failing grade by allowing two runs in seven innings while failing to reach double-digits in strikeouts and triple-digits on the radar gun? Or the one that would be applied to a generic 34-year-old coming off a year’s absence?

What can the Mets expect from the back-to-back, 2018-19 Cy Young award winner who has arrived at the inflection point of a career in which he has a grand total of just 77 big league victories. He has streaked across the sky. He has been brought down to Earth in a crash landing. What next?

Get all the latest live and local coverage from the New York Post as the Yankees and Mets face off for Game 2 of the 2022 Subway Series.

“I don’t know,” said Showalter, who had deGrom in Port St. Lucie this spring. “I got bits of it from the home dugout [at spring training] and I really got to see what everybody has been talking about.

“But I don’t know. When you’ve pitched at the level he has, I don’t know. I can’t sit here and say I do. We’re going to find out. I hope it’s going to be fun.”

We have a player in this city by the name of Aaron Judge who bet on himself on a contract situation and seems to be playing a winning hand the way the Lancey Howard character did in the great movie, “The Cincinnati Kid.” (Not about Ken Griffey Jr.)

This is the route deGrom previously indicated he would take by opting out of his contract, under which he is scheduled to earn $30.5 million next year, regardless of his recent health issues. Who knows what kind of a curve MLB general managers will grade him? That is for the offseason.

Now, though, even if deGrom is less than a supernova, that might be good enough for the Mets this time around. Because he does not have to be the ace. Not when Scherzer can comfortably slip into that cloak. As he was prepared to do on his 38th birthday while attempting to back up Taijuan Walker’s winning performance in Tuesday’s opener of the set.

Jacob deGrom

Scherzer has pretty well done it all through a career that began in 2008 and features 196 major league victories. He has been a World Series champion with the 2019 Nationals. He has started 24 postseason games. But until Wednesday, he had never started a game in the Subway Series. No one expected the moment to be too big for the gunslinger.

“I was saying to someone today that whether it’s in front of 3,000 people at a spring training game, doing [drills] on a back field or this, Max is the same guy,” Showalter said. “He approaches it the same way.

“He never fails to have a competitive edge, no matter the atmosphere.”

The atmosphere in Queens was electric in the evening. It was not so in Syracuse earlier in the day. That’s all right. If all goes well, the twain shall meet as soon as next week.

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