Notes: deGrom set for debut; Smith easing in

March 3rd, 2021

JUPITER, Fla. -- is set for his Grapefruit League debut.

The Mets will roll out their two-time National League Cy Young Award winner in a 1:05 p.m. ET game Saturday against the Astros in West Palm Beach. That gives deGrom time for five spring outings before his Opening Day start against the Nationals on April 1.

“The guys should be charged,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said.

As they do most springs, the Mets are easing their starting pitchers into games, although five starts should still allow deGrom to stretch out to around 90 pitches while in Florida. Two other locks for the Opening Day rotation, Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker, remain on slower progressions after reporting a few days after most teammates -- Carrasco because he required routine additional medical screening, and Walker because he signed just before the official start of Spring Training. Both should be ready well in advance of Opening Day.

Easing in
Dominic Smith is tentatively scheduled to make his Grapefruit League debut on Thursday, after missing the Mets’ first three games because they wanted to avoid overtaxing him early in camp.

Smith, who was late to camp for an undisclosed reason, has been working daily in the outfield since arriving. Rojas mentioned Smith’s history with a stress fracture two years ago as reason for the Mets to tread carefully with him this spring, given all the defensive work he has been doing.

When Smith does debut on Thursday, it will be as the designated hitter.

The Mets are also taking things slow with veteran relievers Edwin Díaz, Jeurys Familia, Dellin Betances and Trevor May, all of whom have yet to appear in games. That could change as soon as Thursday, when the Mets take on the Nationals at Clover Park.

Future star
Making his second appearance in a Grapefruit League game, Mets No. 3 prospect Brett Baty ripped a two-run double in a 14-9 loss to the Cardinals. Baty, whom the Mets selected 12th overall in the 2019 Draft, is among several prospects in big league camp after missing a full developmental season last summer.

“A lot more mature than I expected,” was how Rojas described the 21-year-old Baty, whom he initially met after Draft day in 2019. “He’s definitely a lot stronger than that day when I met him in person. He looks in shape.”

Learning from the master
Pitching prospect Franklyn Kilome had two well-known tutors this winter: Hall of Famer Pedro Martínez, who worked with Kilome on his mechanics and pitch locations, as well as Robinson Canó’s father, José.

In addition to the pointers he received from both men, Kilome said he also learned a sinker during his time in the Dominican Republic.

“The experience was great,” he said through an interpreter.

If you can't beat 'em ...
Longtime Phillies pitcher Jerad Eickhoff had reason to anticipate the Mets’ interest this winter. Over five seasons in Philadelphia, Eickhoff posted better numbers against the Mets (2.41 ERA over 56 innings) than just about any other team. Asked if Mets president Sandy Alderson was intrigued for that reason, Eickhoff replied, “I believe it probably had something to do with it.”

The right-hander is fully healthy following years of arm injuries, though Eickhoff -- who spent all of last summer playing at the Phillies’ alternate training site -- showed some rust Wednesday in allowing four runs over two innings of his Grapefruit League debut. He is competing for a job in the Mets’ rotation, with Triple-A Syracuse his most likely destination.

“You always take the first game of spring with a grain of salt, good or bad, realistically,” Eickhoff said. “You’re just getting out there, getting the blood flowing and getting back at it.”

Well wishes
Following his postgame press conference, Rojas took a moment to send well wishes to Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who is taking a leave of absence to receive a pacemaker.

“I wanted to share with you guys my respect for Aaron,” Rojas said. “He was very welcoming to me when I came into my position -- fellow manager from the same city. I have so much respect for him. … My prayers and thoughts are with him and his family right now.”