deGrom keeps climbing toward full strength
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.”