DeGrom sharp in spring debut, uncertain about opening day

New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) hands the ball to manager Mickey Callaway (36) as he is relived in the third inning of a spring training baseball game against the Houston Astros, Sunday, March 11, 2018, in Port St. Lucie, Fla. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Jacob deGrom looked overpowering at times in his first spring training start for the New York Mets

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The question whether or not Jacob deGrom will be the New York Mets' starting pitcher on opening day wasn't resolved on Sunday. But if he isn't, it likely won't be because of his stuff.

Making his spring debut after being sidelined with back stiffness and leaving camp for his daughter's birth, deGrom overpowered the Houston Astros at times in his two-plus innings of work. He struck out the side in the top of the first, and hit 98 mph during his 47-pitch outing.

Overall, he allowed two runs on two hits and one walk in 2 2/3 innings, fanning four in a 5-2 loss.

DeGrom worked two innings Tuesday in a simulated game. The right-hander said facing opposing hitters other than his teammates or prospects resulted in a rush that had him ramping up his fastball.

"You go face your own hitters and live BP and sim games, whatever, you want to get them out. But when you go face another team and you're actually in a game game, then it's definitely different," deGrom said.

DeGrom fanned Jake Marisnick and Tony Kemp looking before finishing Alex Bregman with a swing-and-miss fastball. Many fans stood as deGrom walked to the dugout.

"I had some nerves, some adrenaline," he said, smiling.

Mets manager Mickey Callaway was impressed with the start.

"He looked fine. He came out of it healthy. We know who Jacob deGrom is," Callaway said.

"You saw the stuff, the velo. He wasn't holding anything back. He was letting it go, and it was good to see. And he pitched a good amount of pitches for his first time out in a real game," he said.

DeGrom said it felt a little strange making his first start this late in camp, and the time spent in bullpens and sim games resulted in one big problem — working from the stretch.

The Astros loaded the bases with no outs in the second inning on a pair of singles and a walk. Having to work from the stretch was a first-time encounter this spring, much like taking the mound.

"I think in that second inning I think I just got quick, my arm wasn't catching up and I was missing a lot high," he said. "I feel like it was when I got to the stretch — that was my first time in the stretch with a runner on. In live BP, no one was running and in the sim game no one was running."

The big question in camp has been whether deGrom will get enough work in time to be ready for opening day at Citi Field against St. Louis in 2 ½ weeks.

Callaway and pitching coach Dave Eiland feel the honor of starting the first game should go to deGrom, who was 15-10 with a 3.53 ERA over a career-high 31 starts last season for the Mets.

But at a point in spring training when starting pitchers are going four innings — lefty starter Jason Vargas relieved and worked four -- Callaway wouldn't speculate on the opening day fate of deGrom.

"We're just taking it day-by-day and going from there," Callaway said.

The 29-year-old deGrom isn't worried about when he makes his first start in the regular season.

"I haven't even thought about it, really. The goal is to get in a game here first and go from there. That'll be a discussion between Mickey, Dave and probably myself," said deGrom, who added he was in line for his next start in five days.

"We don't want to do anything dumb and push it. Today was a big step and everything went fine," he said.

NOTES: LF Yoenis Cespedes homered in the second spot in the order, a position Callaway has had him in often this spring. Cespedes says he has no preference on where he bats. Callaway added he isn't worried about Cespedes' shoulder strength when it comes to throwing, saying, "He made some pretty good throws today." . SS Amed Rosario may go seven or eight innings in his next start.

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