Nearly one full year later, Jacob deGrom pitched in a game Sunday night.
Even better, he pitched like Jacob deGrom, officially starting the clock on his long-awaited return to the Mets.
The two-time Cy Young winner recorded all five of his outs on strikeouts and hit one batter over 24 pitches through 1 ²/₃ innings for the Single-A St. Lucie Mets against Jupiter, reaching 100 mph six times in his first appearance at any level since last July 7 for the Mets.
“It went well. Everything felt really good,” deGrom told reporters after his outing. “We’ve been working on some mechanical things that I saw were a little off in spring, and everything felt like it was in line tonight. Good step, looking forward to getting back out there.
“Nobody wants to miss time. We all want to be out there competing. Nobody wants to get hurt. Even though it’s a first rehab start, I had a lot of nerves and was really excited to be back out there.”
The 34-year-old deGrom hasn’t pitched this season due to a stress reaction in his right scapula.
“Health,” manager Buck Showalter said when asked after the Mets’ 4-1 win over the Rangers what he hoped deGrom would get out of the outing. “We’ll probably be able to answer that question [Monday]but it’s a big step for Jake.
“It’s been a long haul, obviously for him, but for all the people who’ve grinded with him every step of the way to get here. When we discovered what we were dealing with everybody kind of rolled up their sleeves and started working. … It’s been remarkable that Jake’s puts every benchmark so far, and hopefully that continues [Sunday] night.”
The Post has reported that the Mets’ expectation is that deGrom will need another two or three minor league appearances before rejoining their rotation.
Showalter joked that watching deGrom’s outing would depend on the WiFi situation on the team flight to Cincinnati. Mets teammate Francisco Lindor added that he was unaware that deGrom already was slated to pitch in the minors.
“I didn’t even know, but that’s exciting,” Lindor told The Post. “I knew he was facing batters, but pitching in a game, that’s big. That’s great. I hope he goes out there and feels great.”
Pete Alonso struck out in the Mets’ three-run fourth inning, but he made it all the way to second base on a wild pitch and a throwing error by Texas catcher Jonah Heim.
“Ask yourselves how many first basemen as big and strong as Pete would’ve been on second base on a wild pitch,” Showalter said. “Put pressure on them, stay in the lane running is something we talk about. … Doesn’t bat an eye and goes to second base and sets up that inning.”
Outfielder Travis Jankowski (fractured hand) said he was leaving Sunday night to start a minor league rehab assignment Monday for Triple-A Syracuse in Buffalo.
Asked about catching prospect Francisco Alvarez’s promotion to Triple-A Syracuse, Showalter said: “I leave that in [director of player development] Kevin Howard’s and [GM] Billy’s [Eppler] hands, and the coaches and managers there. I obviously look at it because they’re wearing our uniform and are part of it. But if and when I talk to anybody about a player, I ask them how they’re doing defensively and what kind of teammate they are and how they’re impacting the team. The statistical stuff takes care of itself, that’s easy. It’s the other stuff that’s really a difference-maker.”