DeGrom Only Getting Better

DeGrom believes his changeup is getting better too

Right-hander Jacob DeGrom had a breakout season in 2012 while pitching for both low-Savannah and high-A St. Lucie, and he did so in his first year coming back from Tommy John surgery. Throw in the fact that the former college shortstop has less than full two years on the mound, chances are he's only going to keep getting better.

He went a combined 9-3 with 2.43 ERA for both A-ball clubs, limited opposing batters to just a .216 average, and struck out 96 batters in 111 1/3 innings in 2012.

"I feel like it went really well," DeGrom said of his season. "I felt really good all year coming off of [Tommy John] surgery. I was really happy with that and feeling good all year.

"Things worked out really well. Throughout the whole rehab time I never had any setbacks or anything. The whole time through it my arm felt good."

His arm felt better than good though. He had Tommy John surgery at the conclusion of his debut season back in October of 2010, a year in which he primarily sat in the low-90s with his fastball. When he came back he saw a significant velocity spike.

"I was actually throwing harder than I had been in the past," he said proudly. "That really worked out well. I gained a few miles per hour.

"I was really pleased with it. Nobody wants to go through that surgery but with that as the outcome it makes it a bit better I guess."

Seeing his velocity bump to the mid to high 90s was one added benefit. The other big development was the further enhancements made to his once non-existent changeup.

"My changeup was definitely better but I think it had more to do with working more on different grips in Spring and I found one that took off quite a bit of speed, and kind of dropped out of the zone as the last minute," he said.

"I think that had to do more with just working on it since I haven't been pitching that long. I really just found a grip that I was comfortable with that I could throw."

The biggest test for any pitcher coming off of Tommy John surgery is learning to let the breaking ball loose, an aspect of DeGrom's game that he admits was not easy in the beginning.

"Coming back at first you're kind of scared to let the slider go with that kind of turn of the wrist," he admitted. "It came back pretty well though.

"Like I said, there were no setbacks in the rehab. You start throwing changeups first and then the first couple of sliders you're a little nervous but after that everything came back pretty good.

"I stayed down in Extended [Spring Training] I think for three weeks. They wanted to make sure I was going to be healthy. Down there was really my first time back and I was fine throwing it there [in those games]. From then on it felt normal."

Seeing an uptick in his velocity, a big-time advancement in his changeup, and the resurrecting confidence to throw his slider with conviction, DeGrom is pleased with his breakout season last year but he also knows that he is only going to get better going forward.

"I'm really looking forward to this season coming up. I definitely think I can get better. I really just started pitching in 2010 in college because I played shortstop in college. I sat out 2011 too so I've really only been pitching for a year and a half.

"I'm still learning things. People who have been pitching throughout college have a bit of a head start and I feel like I can definitely get better," he concluded.

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