PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The only thing hotter than the FIorida sun is Jacob deGrom’s fastball. Even though it’s early, the Mets ace is bringing the heat.
DeGrom took the mound for a live batting practice session on Tuesday afternoon and the only way his coaches knew it wasn’t a real game was because of the smile he kept flashing after he threw his pitches.
“It’s getting ridiculous,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said of deGrom. “Showing up today, he’s throwing 99.”
DeGrom faced Jeff McNeil, who seemed utterly relieved that he won’t have to dig in against him during the regular season, Pete Alonso, who made some contact but only for sharp grounders, and newcomer Jonathan Villar, who only managed foul balls off the right-hander. DeGrom threw to catcher James McCann as members of the team’s analytics department, pitching coach Jeremy Hefner and Rojas gathered nearby.
Rojas, who said deGrom looked like he was in “midseason form,” didn’t stick around for the entire live BP because the two-time Cy Young award winner is one of the few players he doesn’t spend time worrying about.
“I saw the repetitions, then I went to other fields to see other guys, because you know what you’re seeing,” Rojas said. “The version of Jacob deGrom is getting better. We talked about him competing against himself and just trying to be the best version next time around and that’s what I saw today, is just a better Jake deGrom.”
Edwin Diaz indicated on Tuesday he’s far removed from his first season with the Mets (5.59 ERA over 66 games) that he said “wasn’t good.” He prepared hard this offseason in hopes of bringing similar results as 2020, when he bounced back to record a 1.75 ERA and 50 strikeouts over 25.2 innings in the shortened season.
Rojas won’t commit to Diaz being the team’s closer, but all signs are pointing to the 26-year-old Puerto Rican getting several opportunities to secure saves in 2021.
“Every offseason, I prepare myself to be the closer of the team,” Diaz said. “I think last season was really important for me. I had a tremendous season last year. I’m not the one who makes the decisions, but I know my mindset in my preparation is to be the closer of this team.”
Diaz said the biggest difference in his success last year was the location of his pitches. He was able to better command his fastball and slider, which are two key pitches Diaz needs to have a powerful season. He plans to bring the consistency and routine that served him well in 2020 into what he hopes will be another positive year out of the bullpen.
Rojas and the Mets know they need Diaz to be like the Seattle Mariners version of himself for the relief corps to function well. The skipper is staying open to “other guys” like Trevor May, Aaron Loup or Dellin Betances closing games because of different scenarios that could pop up. If the meat of the opponent’s order is coming up in the eighth inning, Rojas might go to Diaz early.
“We have high trust in him,” Rojas said of Diaz. “The stuff is electric.”
Steve Cohen, who deactivated his Twitter account after a spat with the Barstool Sports founder, returned to the social-media site on Tuesday.
Cohen’s Twitter activity was one of the staples of his newborn ownership. The hedge-fund billionaire was fond of using his account to mainly connect with the Mets fanbase, which routinely went gaga over just about anything he posted on the site. But he also used his account to tweet breaking news, like when he announced the Mets fired former GM Jared Porter.
His first tweet back on Tuesday: “I’m heading down to spring training this weekend again .You can feel the positive vibe amongst the players.LGM”
Add Michael Conforto to the growing list of Mets players who want the classic black jerseys to return.
“I was a fan of the black jerseys. I’m on board,” Conforto said. “I like those uniforms. I think we’d look pretty good out there. There’s a lot that goes into uniform changes, at least from what I’ve heard from our clubhouse guy. The licensing, the approvals, all the hoops they gotta jump through.
“I mean, I don’t know. We’ll see if they pop up, if we can make them happen, I’d be on board and I think a lot of those guys would be.”
Pete Alonso is also a strong advocate for the return of the black jerseys. Cohen, too, recently tweeted about them and teased their potential arrival. Perhaps it’s only a matter of time before the new owner figures out those licensing deals and gets the black jerseys approved.
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