Mets ace deGrom still targeting opening day, but team unsure

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Jacob deGrom

FILE – In this July 9, 2020, file photo, New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom winds up while delivering during a simulated baseball game, part of the Mets summer training camp workout, at Citi Field in New York. Pete Alonso at the plate. Jacob deGrom on the mound. And a healthy Yoenis Céspedes pegged conveniently for designated hitter. There’s no question the New York Mets have reasons to believe this pandemic-shortened season is perfect for them — even without injured starter Noah Syndergaard. All they need to do is pick right up where they left off last year.(AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Jacob deGrom still plans to pitch on opening day, although New York Mets manager Luis Rojas didn’t sound so sure that will happen.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner said he felt good Thursday, two days after leaving an intrasquad game early because of back tightness. A precautionary MRI came back clean, and deGrom thinks he simply might have “slept wrong.”

“Having everything checked out and checking all those boxes definitely makes me feel better about this situation,” he said.

“I think it was just kind of a random thing as far as, woke up a little stiff. … These past few days I’ve felt good.”

He hopes to throw Friday and still believes he can get another tuneup of 60-65 pitches — perhaps now in Sunday’s exhibition game against the Yankees instead of Saturday — before starting the season opener July 24 versus Atlanta as scheduled. The right-hander said he might only be able to throw about 85 pitches on opening day rather than the 100 or so he was targeting, but his goal remains to take the ball.

Rojas, however, said the team is taking a day-to-day approach as deGrom receives treatment and will need to reassess.

“See how he feels tomorrow,” Rojas said. “We have to get through this couple of days at least.”

The Mets already are without No. 2 starter Noah Syndergaard. He had Tommy John surgery and will miss the entire season, which was trimmed to 60 games due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Rojas said deGrom left Tuesday night’s camp outing after only one inning at Citi Field, giving the club a scare.

“What was weird is it was just out of the blue,” deGrom said Thursday on a video conference call. “This was nothing like one pitch — it just was something that didn’t loosen up.”

“I wasn’t too worried because I didn’t think it was serious,” he added. “If that was a regular game, I wouldn’t have said anything. But as far as it being a spring training game, or summer camp game, there was no reason to push through something and risk actually injuring myself. So like I said, it was out of abundance of caution and just trying to play it smart.”

Last year, deGrom won his second consecutive NL Cy Young Award after going 11-8 with a 2.43 ERA in 204 innings. He led the National League with 255 strikeouts.

Preseason back stiffness has bothered deGrom in the past, bumping his initial start from opening day to the second game of the year in 2018. But it hasn’t sidelined him for long.

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