Mets' Jacob deGrom: 'It's nice to get in a game and feel good'

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Jacob deGrom's hair was flowing, his fastball was popping and he was in optimal form in his 2017 Grapefruit League debut.

After missing all of September because of surgery to reposition the ulnar nerve in his right elbow, deGrom returned to action Saturday in the New York Mets' 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros. He retired six straight Houston hitters and sailed through two innings on 26 pitches before calling it a day.

DeGrom thrived against Houston's "A'' lineup. He set down George Springer, Josh Reddick and Jose Altuve in the first inning before retiring Carlos Correa, Carlos Beltran and Yulieski Gurriel in the second. He threw 19 of his 26 pitches for strikes and hit 97 mph on the radar gun several times, according to the outfield scoreboard at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.

"It's nice to get in a game and feel good,'' deGrom said. "You throw bullpens and say you feel good, then live batting practice. But to get out there in a game and actually get some guys out is a plus for me.

"I get nervous before every start in the season, and not normally that much in spring training. But I was a little nervous getting out there and having the adrenaline going for the first time since surgery. I'm glad I got out there and was able to throw the ball where I wanted.''

DeGrom, 28, won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2014 and followed up the next season by going 14-8 with a 2.54 ERA and making the All-Star team. But last year he was limited to 148 innings, and the average velocity on his fastball dipped from 95.0 to 93.4 mph.

DeGrom said he made some mechanical adjustments in his delivery during the offseason to prevent him from flying open and causing his right arm to drag. He hopes the changes will allow him to get more downward angle on his pitches and improve his command. He threw 12 straight fastballs in the first inning, and eight of them went for strikes.

"When I saw the 97, I looked at [pitching coach] Dan [Warthen] and said, 'That's a little special today,''' said Mets manager Terry Collins. "I really think it was important for him to go out there and know that his arm is back. We don't put a [radar] gun on them in the bullpens, so when they go out there and see the velocity is back, I think it's a tremendous confidence builder for them.''

The Mets will send out two more rehabbing pitchers over the next two days. Matt Harvey, who underwent surgery in July to address thoracic outlet syndrome, will start Sunday against the St. Louis Cardinals. Steven Matz, five months removed from surgery to take out a bone spur from inside his left elbow, is scheduled to make his spring debut Monday against the Miami Marlins.

"Matt's had some very good pens, and I don't want him to overthrow,'' Collins said. "I just want him to get out there and get himself in some rhythm where he throws strikes. I know he feels good where he's at right now. I just want him to carry it into tomorrow.''

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Mets starter Jacob deGrom was happy to see 97 mph on the ballpark scoreboard Saturday.
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