JA­COB'S LAD­DER

deGrom keeps climb­ing to­ward full strength

New York Post - - SPORTS - By MIKE PUMA mpuma@ny­post.com

PORT ST. LUCIE — Ja­cob deGrom’s nearly spot­less spring was sul­lied as he worked to build up his pitch count in Sun­day’s sixth in­ning against the Mar­lins.

To that point, the Mets’ righthander had been the front-run­ner for the myth­i­cal Grape­fruit League Cy Young award. But as he chased 75 pitches for the first time this spring, deGrom sput­tered, al­low­ing three hits and three runs in the Mets’ 7-5 loss at First Data Field.

“I don’t know if that has to do with fa­tigue,” deGrom said, not­ing that he also be­came more hit­table late in his pre­vi­ous start against the As­tros. “I don’t feel fa­tigued, but it’s the first time you are get­ting up to 70 pitches and above now. I think that is the main goal, to get the pitch count up and get ready for the sea­son to start.”

DeGrom’s sixth-in­ning blues Sun­day don’t change the fact that the Mets are pleased with how he has per­formed in the ex­hi­bi­tion sea­son, as he re­turns from Septem­ber surgery to re­lo­cate the ul­nar nerve in his right el­bow.

Af­ter al­low­ing a home run to Matt den Dekker lead­ing off the sec­ond in­ning, deGrom rolled into the sixth. Ichiro Suzuki then sin­gled, Adeiny Hechavar­ria stroked an RBI triple and Dee Gor­don fol­lowed with a run-scor­ing sin­gle be­fore deGrom recorded an out and was re­moved at 72 pitches. He struck out four and walked one and still has a re­spectable 2.93 ERA in Grape­fruit League play. What’s been most re­as­sur­ing, his fast­ball ve­loc­ity has reg­u­larly touched 95 mph and above.

“From the start when he first came down here he’s been throw­ing great and we’re thrilled that he’s right on track to where he was two years ago, so that means a lot to us,” man­ager Terry Collins said. “To­day we wanted to throw a few more change­ups, so he’s com­ing. It’s all about feel­ing con­fi­dent that all your pitches are work­ing and he’s prob­a­bly got two more out­ings and he’ll be ready to go.”

DeGrom’s come­back has been more promis­ing than Matt Har­vey’s re­turn. Har­vey, who un­der­went surgery for tho­racic out­let syn­drome last July, has strug­gled in two of his three starts. The Mets have seen his ve­loc­ity hover in the low 90s and are pre­pared for the pos­si­bil­ity he will have to pitch with­out his dom­i­nant fast­ball.

“From Matt, all I am wor­ried about right now is com­mand your pitches,” Collins said. “Make pitches. I don’t care how hard they are. Whether they are 92 or 94, I don’t care, what I care about is that you are hit­ting your spots and throw­ing your sec­ondary pitches for strikes and if he’s do­ing that he will be fine, be­cause he knows how to use them all.”

DeGrom was pleased with his out­ing Sun­day, other than the last in­ning. And he doesn’t want to hear about spring train­ing as a time to work on cer­tain as­pects of his game, with­out a fo­cus on re­sults.

“I don’t want to give up any runs,” deGrom said. “They say, ‘Oh, spring train­ing,’ but when some­body steps in the box you want to get them out.

“Den Dekker swung at the first pitch and ac­tu­ally it wasn’t that bad of a pitch and he hit it out. So the next one I was like, ‘He’s not go­ing to get a hit off me.’ It went well un­til the [sixth] in­ning.”

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