NEW YORK -- In a simulated game Sunday at Citi Field, Jacob deGrom threw 98-100 mph, according to Mets manager Luis Rojas. He fired 60 pitches without issue, striking out nine of the 14 batters he faced, showing no ill effects from the muscle tightness in his back that limited him to one inning in an intrasquad game last week. He looked, in other words, like Jacob deGrom.
“Jake was Jake,” Rojas said. “Everything went well there. So [he’s] pretty much lined up right now.”
Lined up, in other words, for Opening Day this Friday against the Braves (4:10 p.m. ET, live on MLB.TV). deGrom suggested last week that he could throw up to 85 pitches in that one, rather than the roughly 100 he might have thrown had he not essentially skipped a start. Still, having deGrom prepared to shoulder even 85 percent of his normal load is far better for the Mets than no deGrom at all.
“It’s huge,” Mets infielder Jeff McNeil said. “We know every time Jake takes the ball, he’s going to go out there and pitch a heck of a game. He keeps us in every single game. We’ve just got to give him some good run support, and we know we can win a lot of ballgames with him on the mound.”
Rather than pitch in Sunday night’s exhibition against the Yankees, deGrom stayed back at Citi Field for a game in which the Mets could better control the conditions. Citi Field was not open to the media on Sunday, but Rojas described an electric pitcher who appeared to be every bit himself.
The reigning two-time National League Cy Young Award winner, deGrom went 11-8 with a 2.43 ERA in 32 starts last season.
Can't catch a break
Starting catcher Wilson Ramos has missed the past two days due to a personal issue, according to Mets manager Luis Rojas, who declined to discuss the matter further. With Opening Day scheduled for Friday, it is feasible Ramos will be unavailable to start the season.
To protect themselves against that possibility, the Mets added veteran backup René Rivera to their 40-man roster. Had the Mets not added Rivera, they would have needed to pay him a retention bonus to keep him in the organization.
“Having the luxury of a 30-man roster to start the season, you can have depth in different positions,” Rojas said. “Why not the catching?”
Rivera, 36, spent time on the Mets in 2016, ’17 and ’19, most recently gaining prominence as Noah Syndergaard’s preferred catcher. Even with Syndergaard sidelined, however, Rivera offers value to the Mets as a defensive-minded backup. He is a career .221 hitter over 11 seasons with eight teams.
Should Ramos miss time, Tomás Nido would assume starting duties. Another strong defender, Nido hit .191 with four home runs in 50 games last season.
“He was always solid defensively,” Rojas said, “and I know that’s something that can translate into big league games.”
The bad news: Right-hander Robert Gsellman has not appeared in any of the Mets’ recent intrasquad games or exhibitions due to a bout of right triceps tightness. The good news: He recently began playing catch off flat ground. Gsellman, according to Rojas, is questionable for Opening Day.
The injury is similar to one that cost Gsellman about six weeks last season, though this version does not appear to be as serious. Gsellman fully recovered from his previous triceps issue last September.
“He threw for us in Spring Training back in February and March, and he was fine,” Rojas said. “There’s nothing of concern as far as past history. This is something that’s just tightness here in camp, and he’s playing catch right now, so he’s progressing.”
Still, with so little time between now and Opening Day, Gsellman may not be ready in time. If he’s not, it would open another spot for a group of bullpen hopefuls including Drew Smith, Paul Sewald, Daniel Zamora and others.