PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- It was only the second start of Spring Training for Jacob deGrom, but nothing about his outing vs. the Orioles on Friday would lead one to believe it.
deGrom, facing a lineup full of Baltimore regulars, twirled a five-inning gem, allowing just a single to Austin Hays. The right-hander fanned eight and did not walk a batter in the 4-4 tie; Hays was the lone Oriole to avoid a strikeout against him.
"I felt good today," deGrom said. "The main thing was just trying to stay smooth out there and work on all my pitches, and I was actually able to probably throw them better than I thought I'd be able to."
The 29-year-old hurler mixed and matched his fastball and curve to near perfection, keeping the Manny Machado-led Orioles off-balance.
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deGrom doesn't use his breaking ball much -- he threw his curveball just under 10 percent of the time in 2017, per Statcast™ -- but he went to it early and often in his second spring tuneup. And the results were pristine: He threw 41 strikes in around 55 pitches.
Following his departure from the game, deGrom commented to the coaching staff, "That's the best [the] curveball has ever felt."
"If he can add that pitch to his repertoire often, he'll be pretty dangerous," manager Mickey Callaway said.
deGrom's spring got off to a delayed start because of back stiffness, but the ailment appears to be an afterthought following Friday's dominant performance. Had the righty been healthy to start Spring Training, he may very well have been slotted in as the club's Opening Day starter.
Instead, that job will go to flamethrower Noah Syndergaard. But it's not like deGrom isn't deserving of the honor. He was the Mets' rock in 2017 as the rest of the pitching staff struggled to stay healthy, going 15-10 with a 3.53 ERA. His 31 starts, 201 1/3 innings pitched and 239 strikeouts were all career highs.
"I definitely would like to have started [Opening Day], but I didn't know if the timeline worked," deGrom said. "Talking to them, we wanted to play it safe."
Syndergaard himself told deGrom he's worthy of starting the Mets' first game in 2018. deGrom finds solace in it, and he seems content with following Thor in the rotation.
"Hopefully there will be more," he said.