Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom

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Coleman: DeGrom Finally Faces Batters, But Opening Day Looks Like Long Shot

Also, Harvey Feeling Well, Conforto Graduates To BP

Ed Coleman
March 07, 2018 - 10:54 am
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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (WFAN) -- Jacob deGrom passed his latest test with flying colors and now finally has spring outing No. 1 in the books.

DeGrom looked very sharp Tuesday in throwing a two-inning simulated game to live batters on the back fields in Port St. Lucie -- 30 pitches in all -- and will move on to exhibition game action this weekend, probably Sunday. DeGrom was excited about his command and how he felt physically afterward.

"Very encouraged," he said. "It doesn't matter whether it's live BP or a game, when somebody steps in there, the adrenaline starts running, and it's different than throwing a bullpen. So definitely good to have hitters in there and throw with them in there and not feel anything."

Pitching coach Dave Eiland said he'd wait to watch deGrom before deciding to count this session as the first of five that every starting pitcher must go through in the spring. And this was a no-doubter.

"Yes, absolutely this will count," Eiland said. "Again, if he comes in tomorrow and is good to go, then we'll throw a side on Thursday, and we're rolling. So yeah, this will definitely count as one of his outings."

The Mets have yet to name an Opening Day starter, but deGrom has seemingly accepted the reality that it will not be him. He would have to pitch Friday in order to stay in line for March 29 at Citi Field, and Eiland said he'd next pitch either Saturday or Sunday. It will most likely be Sunday because the Mets are home against Houston, while on Saturday deGrom would have to travel cross-state to Tampa to face the Yankees.

Eiland said common sense will decide who starts Opening Day.

"Once you go through the rotation one time, Opening Day's an honor, and like I said the other day, he (deGrom) deserves that start, he understands he deserves it, he earned it. But the smart thing is to make sure he can give us 30-plus starts, and that's more important than making that Opening Day start."

MORE: Bobby Ojeda On WFAN: Steven Matz Not 'A Qualified Starter Anymore'

Matt Harvey was A-OK the day after his second solid start, as he builds confidence and looks forward to building something else -- arm strength.

"Obviously yesterday was a good step, finishing three innings, but any pitcher really has to prepare to go out there and throw five, six, seven innings right off the bat," he said Tuesday. "So I think as spring goes on and we keep working, I think definitely increasing the arm strength (is a goal), and yesterday I was really happy with how it was in that third inning. I felt really strong."

There was good news for outfielder Michael Conforto as well.  He graduated to regular batting-practice swings Tuesday. He's been hitting off a tee and also swinging at underhand tosses.  On Tuesday, he took a total of 50 swings  --  10 off a tee, 25 underhand and finally 15 regular BP swings.  

It was a big step for No. 30, who needed surgery after tearing the posterior capsule in his left shoulder in August. 

"I don't know about 100 percent, but I'm swinging pretty hard, pretty freely," Conforto said. "I don't think about the shoulder. It's more just trying to feel the barrel and get back into that. Today was a good first step."

The Yankees come to town Wednesday. Zack Wheeler will get the start, facing Luis Cessa. Noah Syndergaard will take on the Nationals in West Palm Beach on Thursday. And Steven Matz will try to get back on track Friday in Lakeland against the Tigers.