Jacob deGrom completed a milestone in his progression from minor back tightness by throwing a bullpen session on Friday.
The 17-pitch session was designed to give deGrom the green light to pitch in Sunday’s exhibition game against the Yankees. Instead, the Mets prefer deGrom to throw another 50-60 pitch outing in the form of a simulated game back at Citi Field on Sunday. By doing so, the Mets can continue controlling his pitch count and game situations.
“We want him to reach that pitch count, obviously, especially after going that one inning when he got pulled out,” Mets skipper Luis Rojas said. “Him going to that sim game will help him reach that mark rather than being in an [exhibition] game where we make pitching changes, he can get pulled out, some things can happen.”
The Mets ace exited his Tuesday outing in the first inning of a simulated game with back tightness. DeGrom has continued to feel better after receiving treatment that he said is similar to his pregame routine. He believes the back tightness is simply a product of sleeping wrong Monday night, since the ailment seemingly came out of nowhere for him.
The team is being overly cautious with its consecutive Cy Young award winner, which is the wise route when dealing with even a minor injury to the most important player on the Mets. DeGrom still hopes to start on Opening Day against the Braves next week.
While Yoenis Cespedes seems all but guaranteed to make the Opening Day roster, the same cannot be said for another mending Met in Jed Lowrie. The veteran infielder has continued practicing with an enormous black brace fitted to his left leg at Mets camp, but he does not yet look totally comfortable running the bases with it.
Lowrie missed all but nine games of the 2019 season when he was sidelined with a CVS receipt’s worth of left leg issues, including knee and calf pain. Rojas implied he is still not sure whether Lowrie will be included on the Mets’ 30-man Opening Day roster.
“We’ve seen Jed’s progression in games — his at-bats, able to go out there and play second and third,” Rojas said. “Some of the challenges that he’s had is running the bases and... we still want to see that progression ramp up.
“Last week now of games that we have, we’re looking forward to evaluating where he is — where we can see at a competitive level that he can run the bases. Definitely this last week is going to be a lot of decisions made for that first 30-man that’s going to kick off the season.”
Marcus Stroman threw a total of 80 pitches in what should have been his penultimate tune-up before the regular season kicks off next week. His first 60 pitches were tossed during the Mets’ intrasquad game, where he gave up two home runs and four hits and recorded four strikeouts over three innings. He threw 20 more pitches in the bullpen as the right-hander, who is expected to be the Mets’ No. 2 starter, continues ramping up for the season.
Wilson Ramos crushed a monster home run to left field off Erasmo Diaz for the second straight day and Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith took Stroman deep as the hitters appeared to be polishing their timing at the plate.
The Mets installed two gigantic white tents — one behind each dugout — that are meant to serve as auxiliary dugouts for the 2020 season. In this way, players can separate from each other and sit at least six feet apart in the main and extra dugouts. The tents go back about 10 rows deep and cover two sections of seats for both the home and visitor’s side as the Mets continue familiarizing themselves with social-distancing guidelines in the dugout.
“There are guys that have the ritual of going to the dugout high-fiving, doing different handshakes, showing different things,” Rojas said. “We’re not able to do that before the game, during the game and then postgame. We were talking about that. There’s different things as far as comradery and team unity that are not happening, but each day that passes, that happens, we’re learning it and we’re accepting it more and more. It’s becoming normal now at the end of camp.”