Wednesday night's Mets-Dodgers matchup at Citi Field is a big one for the starting pitchers, and even though Hyun-Jin Ryu and Jacob deGrom are at different junctures in their seasons, they both have something to prove.
For Ryu, it's his health. The Dodgers' southpaw is making his first start since April 27 after an inflamed left shoulder kept him on the sidelines for three and a half weeks. The team deemed a rehab assignment unnecessary, and, following a 75-pitch simulated game last week, Ryu hopes to return to the form that allowed him to post a 3.00 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in seven starts before the injury.
"I feel healthy and I don't feel I need to be extra careful during my start," Ryu said. "The only difference is the extra shoulder exercises I'm doing after the injury. Otherwise, my routine is normal. I'm not aware of any pitch limitations, but that's not up to me."
Ryu's return could bolster a rotation that allows 4.33 runs per game, fourth most in the National League. Left-hander Paul Maholm (5.40 ERA) will go back to the bullpen, and as of Tuesday afternoon, manager Don Mattingly was unsure who would be demoted to make room for Ryu on the 25-man roster, although a hamstring injury to Juan Uribe in Tuesday night's game could solve that problem.
"We're still talking about it," Mattingly said. "[General manager] Ned [Colletti] is here with his guys and we'll talk."
deGrom, meanwhile, has something to prove, too -- that he belongs. He is in effect battling fellow rookie Rafael Montero for a single spot on the starting staff, a competition that will feature a third turn through the rotation with the news Tuesday that Dillon Gee's recovery from a strained right lat is progressing slower than originally hoped.
Wednesday will be the second game of deGrom's young Major League career.
"I'll be nervous. I get nervous before every start," deGrom said. "But I think I'll be a little less than I was the first time. The debut is the big deal because you want to prove you can pitch at this level for the first time."
He did just that last week, limiting the Yankees to one run on four hits in seven innings. He also struck out six and walked two.
"I'm not sure Jake can pitch much better than he pitched," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He was pretty darn good. If he can duplicate that, we'll take it."
Mets: Lagares due back Wednesday
The Mets expect center fielder Juan Lagares to return stateside in time for Wednesday's game, a day later than originally planned.
General manager Sandy Alderson explained Tuesday that when Lagares, who went home to the Dominican Republic following the death of a family member, needed the extra day, the Mets had two choices: place him on the bereavement list, which requires a minimum three-day stay and therefore would keep Lagares out Wednesday as well, or just play shorthanded Tuesday. The Mets chose the latter.
When questioned about his young players and playing time, Collins reiterated Lagares is a priority.
"Juan Lagares is the center fielder," Collins said. "There are going to be days he has off."
Dodgers: Puig turning it up
The Mets haven't felt the wrath of Yasiel Puig like most other teams have -- the star outfielder went 3-for-13 (.231) with one double, one RBI and three strikeouts during the teams' three-game series last August -- but that changed Tuesday night.
Puig reached base five times during a 3-for-4 effort highlighted by a double that was inches away from clearing the right-field fence. The Mets got the full Puig experience when he forgot how many outs there were in the bottom of the third inning and, upon catching David Wright's inning-ending flyout, fired back to the infield to prevent a runner from tagging up.
The eventful game was Puig's first since being named the NL co-Player of the Week. He's hitting .333 on the season and has at least one base knock in all but one game this month.
"The biggest one is just patience at the plate," Mattingly said of Puig's adjustments since last season. "I think that's what we're seeing. It's helped him turn a corner offensively -- he's forcing guys to throw him strikes. Last year, he was emotional in those situations, RBI situations, and this year, he's been more calm, more patient, and he's forcing teams to throw him strikes."
• Travis d'Arnaud, who was eligible to return from the 7-day disabled list Tuesday, did not. He is still recovering from his concussion symptoms and there is no timetable for his return. Similarly, righty Gonzalez Germen is still recovering from flu symptoms that have kept him sidelined since May 6 and will not return from the 15-day DL on Wednesday.
• The Dodgers are 10-1 against the Mets since July 1, 2012.
Tim Healey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.