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deGrom throws 'pen session, ready for live BP

Lagares debuts in CF; Montero allows one run over two innings vs. Nats
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- As he continues his quest to be ready for Opening Day, Jacob deGrom threw a 20-pitch bullpen session -- his first in nearly two weeks due to a bout of back stiffness -- early Friday morning at First Data Field. The next step for deGrom is to face hitters, which he expects to do Sunday in a live batting-practice session.

"I was letting it go," deGrom said of Friday's session. "I felt good. I threw every pitch; no problems with any of them. Definitely a step in the right direction."

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- As he continues his quest to be ready for Opening Day, Jacob deGrom threw a 20-pitch bullpen session -- his first in nearly two weeks due to a bout of back stiffness -- early Friday morning at First Data Field. The next step for deGrom is to face hitters, which he expects to do Sunday in a live batting-practice session.

"I was letting it go," deGrom said of Friday's session. "I felt good. I threw every pitch; no problems with any of them. Definitely a step in the right direction."

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If deGrom comes out of Sunday's live batting-practice session in good health, he could progress to a game as soon as Tuesday -- still early, by Spring Training standards, but not enough time to make five Grapefruit League starts before appearing on Opening Day. Manager Mickey Callaway has called that the standard for all of his pitchers.

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Tweet from @AnthonyDiComo: "I was letting it go." Jacob deGrom says he felt terrific during his bullpen session. Next step: facing hitters. #Mets pic.twitter.com/GGNJgByGxW

To use deGrom against the Cardinals at Citi Field, then, the Mets would have to make an exception. Or they could choose to start Noah Syndergaard on Opening Day and use deGrom in Game 2 of the season, which would allow him to make five Spring Training starts on regular rest before appearing in a regular-season game.

They will make that call at a later date.

Well wishes
The Mets released the following statement Friday on Rusty Staub, who is reportedly battling kidney failure in a West Palm Beach, Fla., hospital:

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"Fred and Jeff Wilpon have each reached out to Rusty to wish him well. In addition, multiple people from our organization have also been in contact. Everyone wishes Rusty and his family nothing but the best in his courageous battle."

Staub, 73, played for the Mets from 1972-75, and again from 1981-85. In recent years, he has been a fixture at Citi Field as a club ambassador.

Glove love
The last of New York's projected Opening Day starters made his debut on Friday, when Juan Lagares returned from a mild hamstring strain to play three innings in center field against the Nationals. Lagares grounded out in his lone plate appearance.

"I feel happy," Lagares said. "I was ready to be out there with the guys and ready to play."

Tweet from @AnthonyDiComo: Here's Juan Lagares discussing his Grapefruit League debut, which a strained hamstring delayed a couple days. #Mets pic.twitter.com/icVgRdh0VQ

As long as Lagares can remain healthy, Mets officials are intrigued by the idea of starting him most days in center field while Michael Conforto recovers from shoulder surgery. For that plan to work, however, Lagares must prove his durability following multiple thumb, hamstring and oblique injuries the past four seasons.

Camp battles
A favorite to make the Opening Day roster because he is out of Minor League options, Rafael Montero started Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Nationals, giving up one run in two innings. It's the only run Montero has given up in four spring innings to date.

If he continues pitching well, Montero is a strong bet to make the Mets' bullpen in a middle-relief role.

"The only thing that I have to focus on is my work," Montero said through an interpreter. "I have to keep working very hard, and God will tell us what will happen."

Hit the highway
Following the Mets' loss to the Nationals at First Data Field, Callaway and his coaches jumped into their cars for a drive to West Palm Beach, Fla., where the Mets were scheduled to play a rare day-night, split-squad doubleheader. In a spring of firsts for Callaway, it was his first time managing multiple games on the same day in different cities.

Up next
Syndergaard, who hit 101 mph in his Grapefruit League debut before running shirtless sprints on a back field, will return to start a 1:05 p.m. ET game Saturday against the Marlins at Jupiter, Fla. The Mets' dual closing threats, Jeurys Familia and AJ Ramos, are also scheduled to pitch in the game. Listen on Gameday Audio.

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

New York Mets, Jacob deGrom