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'No problems' following deGrom's side session

Righty cautious after experiencing back stiffness, but feeling confident about starting Opening Day
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Back stiffness putting his status for Opening Day at least somewhat in doubt, Jacob deGrom reported "no problems" after throwing a modified side session off the slope of a mound Wednesday in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Should he continue to progress at this rate, deGrom said, starting on Opening Day should not be an issue.

"I definitely want to be ready for that," deGrom said. "The thing is to be smart. … Today's a great sign for me that everything felt good. I think everything was more precautionary, but you want to be safe and not do something dumb and end up missing two months of the season."

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Back stiffness putting his status for Opening Day at least somewhat in doubt, Jacob deGrom reported "no problems" after throwing a modified side session off the slope of a mound Wednesday in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Should he continue to progress at this rate, deGrom said, starting on Opening Day should not be an issue.

"I definitely want to be ready for that," deGrom said. "The thing is to be smart. … Today's a great sign for me that everything felt good. I think everything was more precautionary, but you want to be safe and not do something dumb and end up missing two months of the season."

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Although the Mets have not named deGrom their Opening Day starter, he is the obvious choice after finishing eighth in National League Cy Young Award voting last season. Setting career highs in starts, innings and strikeouts, deGrom was one of two Mets on the Opening Day roster not to spend time on the disabled list.

But deGrom experienced a bout of back discomfort last weekend, restarting his throwing program after taking several days off for the birth of his daughter. That led manager Mickey Callaway to say Tuesday that it's "not totally clear" if deGrom will be prepared for the first day of the season.

To ready himself, deGrom will need to make approximately five Grapefruit League starts, according to Callaway, which will only be possible if he pitches in a game by early next week. For now, the Mets will wait to see how deGrom responds to his modified side session; if all goes well, he could throw live batting practice as soon as Friday, priming him for game action shortly thereafter.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Of course, five Grapefruit League starts are not a hard and fast prerequisite for deGrom to start on Opening Day. The Mets could also decide to hold deGrom for Game 2 of the regular season, giving him two additional days of preparation. In that case, Noah Syndergaard would become the obvious candidate to start the opener.

This early in spring, the entire situation is rooted in speculation.

"If things keep going smooth, I don't think there's a reason I shouldn't be able to get ramped up enough," deGrom said. "If everything goes as planned, I should be able to get ready."

Video: Callaway, deGrom optimistic for 2018 season

Tighten it up

Originally scheduled to throw two innings in his second Grapefruit League outing, the Mets' 6-4 win over the Braves on Wednesday, Zack Wheeler lasted only one due to the 26 pitches he threw. Mostly, Wheeler bemoaned a poor grip on his curveball, which caused him to spike several of them in the dirt -- including two wild pitches that led to a run.

Wheeler also struck out two, dialed his fastball up to 96 mph and limited the damage to a single run, though he took little solace from that.

"I've got to put guys away a little bit faster," said Wheeler, who threw additional pitches in the bullpen following his outing. "[Twenty-six] pitches isn't going to get it done. But it's still early in spring. I'm working on a few things. I'll get that figured out."

Video: NYM@ATL: Nimmo hits solo homer in the 4th

Newfound aggression

The most notable aspect of Brandon Nimmo's leadoff homer in the fourth inning was that it came on the first pitch of his at-bat. Nimmo, who swung at fewer total pitches last season than all but eight Major Leaguers with at least 200 plate appearances, says he has become less hesitant to attack the first strike he sees.

"I am feeling more comfortable in that," said Nimmo, who is trying to earn a bigger share of the Mets' center field playing time. "It does depend on how you're feeling, but being a little more comfortable with [hitting coach Pat Roessler] and with my swing has helped to be able to go after those pitches earlier in the count."

New face

Suiting up in a Mets uniform for the first time Wednesday morning, A.J. Griffin brought the total number of players in camp to 56. Before signing with the team on a Minor League deal, Griffin was working out in Scottsdale, Ariz., throwing bullpen sessions in preparation for joining a club. He considers himself close to game-ready.

"I like the action on my pitches," Griffin said. "I'm excited to come out here and compete and see what I can do."

Most likely, Griffin will wind up in the Triple-A Las Vegas rotation, ready to step up if injury strikes. He struck out 61 batters in 77 1/3 innings last year for Texas, compiling a 5.94 ERA.

Video: Vargas, Alderson on two-year deal with Mets

Up next

Jason Vargas will make his first start for the Mets in 11 years when he debuts Thursday against the Marlins at First Data Field on MLB.TV. Seth Lugo, who is competing for a spot on the Opening Day roster, will follow Vargas in the 1:10 p.m. ET game.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

New York Mets, Jacob deGrom