PORT ST. LUCIE — Jacob deGrom appeared in good spirits, at one point breaking into a laugh while throwing live batting practice Tuesday, as Mets teammates such as Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and Jonathan Villar attempted to make contact.
From manager Luis Rojas’ perspective, it might as well have been midseason for the Mets ace.
“I don’t know the number [of pitches] exactly, but it’s getting ridiculous,” Rojas said. “He’s showing up today, he’s throwing 99 [mph] and just easy having fun out there and the rest of his pitches like he was in midseason form. I saw the repetitions and I went to other fields to see other guys, because it’s like you just know what you are seeing and it’s just a version of Jacob deGrom getting better.”
DeGrom finished third in the National League Cy Young Award voting last season after winning it the previous two years. He will attempt to rediscover his 2018 and ’19 levels this season.
“We talked about him competing against himself, just trying to be the best version the next time around,” Rojas said. “And that is what we saw today, a better Jake deGrom.”
Dellin Betances’ decreased velocity was an issue last season, but for now Rojas says the right-hander is focused on other areas, including arm angle and pitch movement.
“We are where we want him to be compared to where we were last year coming into camp,” Rojas said. “The vertical movement of the fastball, for example, or the horizontal or vertical movement of the breaking pitches. Those types of things, the extension, where his head position is when he’s releasing the ball or where his arm action is. Those are some of the things of focus we talked about in the offseason and we’re trying to see in his first couple of sides.”
Betances tried to pitch through a lat injury last season and ultimately landed on the IL for most of the final month. He finished with a 7.71 ERA in 15 appearances for the team.
The Mets, who will allow 1,400 fans per game into Clover Park this spring, sold out their Grapefruit League schedule within nine minutes of tickets going on sale.