Jacob de Grom to start Mets on Tuesday

After 391 days of waiting, one of baseball’s best pitchers is expected to finally take over in a major league game. Jacob deGrom, a two-time Cy Young National League Award winner who last played for the Mets on July 7, 2021, is scheduled to return from injury Tuesday night against the Nationals in Washington.

In what seemed to be his best year in 2021, deGrom has missed the last three months with a throwing arm injury. By spring training in 2022, he reported being healthy, but a few days before the start of the season he was again on the injured list, this time with stress reaction in the right shoulder blade.

Finally recovered and armed with a plan to stay that way, deGrom with white reporters The Sunday before the debut of the season. He told them that it “didn’t take long” for his shoulder to feel good again, but that he and the Mets’ training staff took a deliberate approach to his recovery.

“We looked at why we thought it happened with the rapid buildup,” he said, alluding to the delay and protracted spring practice caused by a labor dispute between Major League Baseball’s owners and the players’ union. “We played it safe by taking extra days and making sure everything was where we wanted it to be. So there were no failures.”

DeGrom, who had a 1.08 92-inning average last year, told reporters he’s confident he can stay healthy for the rest of the season. He added: “Everything healed and I felt good throughout the process.”

He also confirmed that he expected will use the opt-out clause in his five-year, $137.5 million contract extension, not counting $30.5 million owed in 2023, for a chance at a bigger deal.

DeGrom, 34, returns to a Mets team that remains in first place in the NL East after Sunday 9-3 win over Miami Marlins but this reduced his lead over the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves to three games.

First baseman Pete Alonso, hitting his 85th run on Sunday, has been a consistent bright spot on offense, and the Mets welcomed their second ace when Max Scherzer returned from the injured list in early July. But even as things are coming together for the team, the front office, which added a few minor details, could be active again ahead of Tuesday’s MLB trade deadline.

“Definitely excited,” deGrom told reporters. “It’s been a long one. It’s been a pretty slow comeback process. Glad to be there. It’s not quite nerve-racking yet, but I’m sure I’ll be very nervous on Tuesday and I have a feeling it’s going to be like my debut.”