PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Jacob deGrom has won the National League Cy Young Award in back to back seasons. He’s a former NL Rookie of the Year. He’s made three All-Star games.
He still gets nervous.
DeGrom always experiences jitters as he waits to head out to the field to warm up before a start. They don’t leave until he begins getting loose.
Sunday, his spring training debut, felt no different.
“Any time I take the mound, I’m nervous,” deGrom said. “I was nervous in the sim game (last Tuesday). Any time you’re out there competing, I always seem to get nervous. It felt good to get back out there in a real game feel, people in the stands and another team.”
DeGrom, who started what became a 3-1 Mets victory over Washington, allowed only a hit over three innings at Clover Park. He was the dominant right-hander you’ve come to expect, which is a positive — even if it’s only spring training.
The Mets’ ace set down the Nationals on seven-pitches in a first inning that lasted about three minutes. He hit 98 mph. But in the second frame, he had to work around a hit.
It may come as a surprise, but he felt the second inning proved more useful.
“Felt really good out of the wind-up, didn’t feel as good out of the stretch, so that was good,” said deGrom, who threw 33 pitches and struck out two batters on Sunday. “I’ve said before that’s when you make your most important pitches — with runners on. Working on varying times, picking (off), trying to keep the runners where they’re at.”
DeGrom said he is happy with his fastball command thus far in spring training. But his off-speed, he added, is not yet where he wants it.
On Sunday, he felt the off-speed pitches he threw with one strike in the count were good. He would like to clean up his off-speed in two-strike counts, though.
“They were still good pitches, but they weren’t the swing-and-miss (pitches) I was looking for,” deGrom said.
DeGrom won another Cy Young in November, but still seemingly prepared just as much, manager Luis Rojas said. Rojas did not see deGrom’s simulated game last week — the manager was with the team at a game in Lakeland — but he watched the ace’s bullpens and live batting practice.
“You see that (his bullpens) are electric, they’re lights out,” Rojas said. “And then going into the sim game the other day and now into the games, it just shows that he’s out there working to keep getting better and be the best version of myself.
It is still spring training. DeGrom will be judged on how he performs from March 26 until October — and beyond, the Mets hope.
Regardless, his start on Sunday should provide optimism. He looked like one of the game’s best.
“He comes in first (game) of spring to go three innings and he looks like the pitcher he is,” Rojas said.
Lugo ready for games
Seth Lugo (fractured pinkie toe) pitched a live batting practice session on Sunday.
“Felt good, felt real good,” he said. “Ball was coming out well and threw a lot of strikes. That’s exactly what I was looking for in a live BP.”
There was one curveball that got away and went up and in on Yoenis Céspedes. Speaking of which: Céspedes homered twice against Lugo.
“I think the second one where he fell down just got in the wind,” Lugo said. “The first one, that was a good swing. I wouldn’t pitch him like that in a real game. I knew what I was stepping into.”
Lugo said he is not a pitcher who gets competitive during live BP. He was only trying to get all of his pitches in — from the wind-up and stretch — on Sunday.
Lugo said he does not need to throw any more live BP. He is ready to pitch in real games.
"Let's see what the performance staff dictates now after seeing it," Rojas said, "and hopefully we can see him in games soon."
J.D. Davis still limited
J.D. Davis (jammed left shoulder) said the medical staff has given him no timetable.
Right now, he’s “swinging” with the bat in only his right hand — not a full swing, but only the motion so he can mimic the follow-through. He’s also played catch and taken ground balls in the outfield.
“We’re trying to limit everything up here (in the shoulder),” Davis said.
Davis injured his shoulder diving for a ball in Lakeland last week. His MRI showed inflammation — and a previous labrum tear — but no current structural damage.
He said last week that he is not worried about missing Opening Day.
Conforto’s birthday gift to himself
Michael Conforto turned 27 on Sunday. In celebration, he launched a solo home run to right field in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Conforto finished the day 1-for-2 with a walk.
A promising Canó moment
You cannot read too much into spring training results. But that doesn’t mean you cannot get excited.
Robinson Canó opened the scoring with a two-run double into the gap in right-center field. After a season ruined by injuries, that might be seen as a small positive.
Sunday marked Canó’s second game of the spring. He’s been the designated hitter in both, and the plan is for him to play second base on Tuesday.
Nothing on Adams
Last week, the Mets' team cardiologist recommended Brandon Nimmo receive additional cardiac testing. He completed it and only missed two games.
Matt Adams was scratched from last Thursday's game in Jupiter for the same reason. But Rojas said there is no update on Adams' cardiac testing.