Two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom finally pitched in a game for the Texas Rangers, though it was on a back field against minor leaguers.
The Rangers have been cautious with their prized addition since he reported tightness in his left side before the first spring training workout just less than a month ago. His first spring start came in the more-controlled environment for Triple-A Round Rock on Monday, when he struck out five of the eight batters he faced while throwing 20 of 24 pitches for strikes over two innings against Kansas City minor leaguers at the complex the big league franchises share in Surprise, Arizona.
"The first couple of batters, I didn't locate my fastball that well," deGrom said. "The second inning I dialed it in a little bit. Everything felt great. I threw all four pitches. I'm really happy with it. Changeup, curveball I think are going to be plus-pitches this year. I was able to mix them in quite a bit."
New Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said deGrom looked "really good" with his delivery and velocity, and got better as he went.
The only hit allowed by deGrom was an inside-the-park home run by Omar Hernandez, the second batter faced. The ball ricocheted high off the batter's eye in center field and past two outfielders.
After his two innings in the game, deGrom threw 23 more pitches in the bullpen. He said he anticipates being ready for opening day March 30.
Texas signed deGrom to a $185 million, five-year contract in December. He spent his first nine big league seasons with the New York Mets. but injuries limited him to 156 1/3 innings in 26 starts over the past two years. The 34-year-old right-hander threw about six bullpen sessions before arriving in Arizona, but was delayed in throwing in camp after telling the team he was stiff.
"The last thing I want to do is call in and say my left side is a little tight. (The Rangers) handled it great, they said let's take four days and knock it out. Get it behind us," deGrom said. "This one was interesting because if I had it during the season I would have pitched with it. We caught it early enough. We have plenty of time let's do the smart thing here."
ALSO ON BACK FIELDS
— Max Scherzer made his scheduled start Monday for the New York Mets in a minor league game.
The right-hander allowed five runs (three earned) over parts of five innings. Three of the innings were cut short because of his pitch count.
Tylor Megill, who could get a shot in the starting rotation due to lefty José Quintana's fractured rib, struck out three in four scoreless innings in the main game for the Mets against the Miami Marlins.
— While deGrom was pitching in his minor league game, another of the Rangers' offseason additions was doing the same at the Surprise complex. Nathan Eovaldi, who has also dealt with tightness in his side, allowed two hits in two scoreless innings while pitching for Double-A Frisco. The right-hander threw 22 of his 29 pitches for strikes.
The New York Mets expect to have an update this week on the status of Quintana, the free-agent addition who has a stress fracture in a rib on his left side.
Mets general manager Billy Eppler said Monday that the team was still getting more information from doctors after the pitcher went from Florida to New York for further evaluation.
Quintana, who signed a $26 million, two-year deal during the offseason, threw in a minor-league exhibition game March 5 before the diagnosis of the stress fracture that was revealed last week. He never made it to pitch for Colombia in the World Baseball Classic.
Eppler said the team would provide an update when it has all of the information. While not denying a New York Post report Monday that the pitcher would be shut down from throwing for three months, the GM called it premature.
The 34-year-old Quintana was 6-7 with a 2.93 ERA combined while pitching for Pittsburgh and St. Louis last season. He is 89-87 with a 3.75 ERA in 315 games (289 starts) over 11 big league seasons with six teams.
MUSGROVE'S BIG TOE
San Diego Padres All-Star pitcher Joe Musgrove on Monday threw his second bullpen session since breaking his left big toe when he dropped a kettlebell two weeks ago.
"Again, it's miraculous, he didn't feel it at all," Padres manager Bob Melvin said. "You're watching to see his reaction on every pitch, if he's reacting at all to the toe. And all he's talking about is grips. ... Looks like we're on a pretty good path."
The big right-hander, who also threw a bullpen session Saturday, is now set to return to San Diego for what was a planned evaluation to monitor his progress.
Melvin said he still considered it a "longshot" for Musgrove to pitch opening day March 30 against Colorado, and was unsure of the hometown pitcher's timeline. Musgrove could still avoid a stint on the injured list and pitch in the opening six-game homestand.
While Musgrove is going into his third season with the Padres, this is the start of a $100 million, five-year contract he signed late last season.
Anthony Rizzo said he felt fine after taking batting practice Monday, a day after being scratched from the New York Yankees lineup because of his back.
While Rizzo didn't play again Monday, the team has said it didn't believe the problem was serious. The 33-year-old first baseman who is going into his 13th season acknowledged early in spring training that he would be crazy to say he wouldn't have a back issue this year. He received an epidural injection last season.
The Yankees re-signed Rizzo in mid-November to a $40 million, two-year contract, after he hit .224 with 32 home runs and 75 RBIs in 130 games last year after spending the previous 10 seasons with the Chicago Cubs.
RAYS ON BASE
Tampa Bay won its exhibition game 9-5 over Detroit on Monday, when the Rays had all eight of their hits and all of their runs in the first three innings.
The Rays sent 24 batters to the plate in the first three innings, with 15 of them reaching base (eight hits, six walks, one hit batsman) and another hitting a sacrifice fly. The other eight outs were six strikeouts and two infield popups.
AP freelance writer Gary Schatz contributed to this report.