After undergoing ulnar nerve surgery at the end of the 2016 season, Jacob deGrom regained his velocity and stepped up as the Mets' best starter last season. For the first time in his career, he eclipsed 200 innings, and parlayed the increased workload and an improved strikeout rate (10.7 K/9) into a career-high 239 punchouts. Little changed with his pitch mix, although deGrom used his slider at a 22.7 percent rate, the most he's thrown that offering to this point in his career, and the adjustment came at the expense of fewer fastballs. He was more willing than ever to challenge hitters within the strike zone (51.5 percent), and despite that, hitters made contact on those pitches at a career-low 73.5 percent rate against him. If the improved walk rate he carried in the second half (2.1 BB/9) is maintained over a full season with the increase in strikeouts, deGrom has the tools necessary to contend for the Cy Young Award in 2018.
DeGrom tossed five scoreless innings in Friday's Grapefruit League game against the Orioles, allowing only one hit and striking out eight. He's only been able to make two starts this spring due to back stiffness, but deGrom's made them count, racking up a 12:1 K:BB through 7.2 innings. The right-hander is coming off his first career 200-inning campaign, as well as career highs in wins and strikeouts, and it looks like he'll be fully healthy and ready to go by Opening Day.
DeGrom (back) is slated to start the Mets' second game of the regular season March 31 against the Cardinals, Anthony DiComo of MLB.com reports. There had been some worry that deGrom wouldn't be recovered from his back stiffness in time to be available for Opening Day, and it turns out that technically he won't be. The Mets may have turned to Noah Syndergaard for Opening Day regardless of the health of deGrom's back, though, so this shouldn't be taken as a negative sign for deGrom going into the regular season. It's undoubtedly positive that deGrom won't have his turn skipped in the rotation at all, as the back no longer appears to be a concern and the right-hander's main focus at this time is simply building up his pitch count in his subsequent spring outings.
DeGrom (back) made his spring debut Sunday, allowing two runs on two hits and a walk while striking out four over 2.2 innings against the Astros, Matt Ehalt of The Bergen Record reports. While deGrom was knocked around for two runs, after the game he said that his back feels fine and that he hasn't dealt with any lingering pain since reporting to camp. During his outing, he was able to throw 47 pitches, with 28 strikes, leaving him not too far behind the workload of New York's other starters. Although it remains unlikely that he'll be the Mets' Opening Day starter, the club doesn't seem to think he'll miss an extended period of time when the season begins. Additional information regarding deGrom's availability should surface as he sees more time during New York's remaining Grapefruit League outings.
DeGrom (back) threw a 37-pitch bullpen session Thursday and said afterward that he felt "wonderful," Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News reports. With deGrom's bullpen session going according to plan, he'll take the hill Sunday against the Astros in his Grapefruit League debut. The outing will mark the second time he'll have faced hitters this spring; deGrom previously tossed live batting practice to rehabbing teammates Dominic Smith, Juan Lagares and TIm Tebow on Tuesday. According to Matt Ehalt of The Bergen Record, Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland relayed earlier this week that deGrom will need to face hitters on five occasions -- be it in live BP sessions or spring games -- before receiving clearance to make his season debut. That stipulation makes it unlikely deGrom will start Opening Day against the Cardinals, though he should be ready to pitch in one of the final two games of the series March 31 or April 1.
DeGrom (back) is in line to make his first spring start Sunday, Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News reports. DeGrom has been battling lower-back stiffness all spring and has yet to make his Grapefruit League debut. If he is able to make his start on Sunday, he could be ready at some point in the first week of the season, though an Opening Day start appears unlikely. The Mets, of course, will have no problem giving Noah Syndergaard the ball on Opening Day. It sounds as though the best case would see deGrom starting the team's second game (on March 31), while the worst case, barring unexpected setbacks, will see him missing one start and taking his turn in the rotation the second time through.