NEW YORK — Jacob deGrom does not want to be the answer to an obscure baseball trivia question.
The Mets’ right-hander has already had a tough week on the mound, with longtime bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello doubling off him in his final spring start, an intrasquad game in Port St. Lucie, Fla., contested before the Mets packed up First Data Field for the season. Racaniello is still trolling him every change he gets.
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“I walk in today and he’s reading a get better at hitting book over there, and he keeps looking at me,” deGrom said, following his season debut against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night at Citi Field.
When it came time to face former teammate Bartolo Colon, deGrom knew he couldn’t go easy him. Why? Because unlike the intrasquad game, “This actually counts,” he said.
The right-hander knows the kind of damage that Colon is capable of doing with the bat, be it damage to himself or damage to the opposing pitcher (looking at you, James Shields).
So deGrom went right after him when he faced him in the third inning, throwing him impeccably placed sliders. The same sliders that no one else was hitting all night. Colon struck out as only he can, striking out with the force of his entire body.
deGrom went a little easier on him in the sixth inning, throwing him a fastball that was about 10 ticks slower than his fastest one.
“I told him when he came out to warm up, I said, ‘Are you swinging tonight?'” deGrom said. “And he just laughed. So I had a feeling he was going to be swinging.”
He did swing at that fastball, and grounded out weakly to the shortstop. Both times, he walked back the dugout with a standing ovation and some cap-tips from former teammates.
deGrom dominated just about every hitter in Colon’s dugout, though not quite as handily as he did Big Bart. He gave up only two hits in the Mets’ extra-inning loss to the Braves.
“I thought he was really great for us,” manager Terry Collins said. “His slider was pretty good tonight, I think his changeup is really good for him and as he gets into the season he’ll use it a little bit more. But I thought he threw the ball very, very well.”
deGrom is poised for a big season. He’s healthy and thinks that his improved mechanics will keep him out of the training room where all of the other pitchers seem to be congregating already.
“Last year, the main thing I was trying to do was keep that front side in and I wasn’t able to do it,” deGrom said. “I think working on it all spring and once I was able to start throwing after my injury, I continued to work on it in between starts. So I think this year that’s going to be big for me to be able to repeat my delivery and keep my front side (closed).”
He got the big surgery, the big recovery and now the big start out of the way. Wednesday night, deGrom also got the big hitter out twice (and I don’t mean Matt Kemp).
“You’ve gotta smile at Bart,” deGrom said. “It was fun, but I didn’t want him to get a hit.”
Abbey Mastracco may be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @abbeymastracco. Find NJ.com on Facebook.
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