With five or more necessary hurdles still remaining in from of him, New York Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom is almost out of time when it comes to be the opening day starting pitcher for the team.
The right-hander went through a bullpen 40-pitch session with Zack Wheeler, A.J. Griffin and Rafael Montero on Sunday prior to the Mets game at home against Washington. deGrom did not, as was anticipated, face live batters.
deGrom said on Friday he would face batters Sunday, but at some point that plan was changed. Instead, Michael Conforto, who is recovering from an injury, stood in the batter’s box and tracked deGrom’s pitches without taking any swings.
deGrom said after the session that he was not sure what he was doing, as he thought he would face batters, but he thinks the plan is not to do anything dumb and to make sure things go right.
While pitching in the session on Sunday, deGrom did not hold back flashing his impressive fastball. He was the most consistent as well as reliable pitcher for the Mets last season going 15-10 with an ERA of 3.52 across 31 starts for a team than won just 70 games.
deGrom, who is 29, has had lower back stiffness that has kept him sidelined and he missed time for the birth of his daughter.
This has hurt his drive toward being the starter on opening day March 29 at home versus the St. Louis Cardinals, which is an appearance that Dave Eiland, the new Mets pitching coach said deGrom is deserving of.
Eiland said that deGrom has earned the opening day start and whether he is able to pitch it or not, he has earned it.
Eiland added that deGrom has several hurdles to pass and there is no good reason to rush the pitcher.
The pitching coach said no exceptions exist on the staff and that deGrom would need to face hitters on five occasions during March prior to the club opening its regular season at Citi Field.
The plan has deGrom pitching on Tuesday in a game, but that could only be a simulated one facing hitters on another field.
Following that, deGrom would need to increase his pitch count over subsequent starts in spring training. Eiland added that if deGrom can get to 80 or 90 pitches in an outing he might be able to make opening day and there was still time for him to accomplish that.