Montero, deGrom have perfect beginning

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- A week before reporting for spring training last year, while working on a neighbor’s livestock farm in De Leon Springs, Fla., Jacob deGrom was kicked by a small calf, leaving the ring finger on his non-pitching hand broken and pointed sideways. He nonetheless started the regular season on time with Class A St. Lucie, rose all the way to Triple-A Las Vegas and then got added to the 40-man roster in November.

lastname Monterolastname deGrom In his Grapefruit League debut Friday, deGrom tossed two perfect innings, striking out four, in an eventual 5-4 loss to the Washington Nationals. Las Vegas teammate Rafael Montero also tossed two perfect innings for the Mets, further demonstrating there is more high-caliber upper-level pitching in the system than Noah Syndergaard.

All three are expected to open this season in Las Vegas’ rotation, despite officially being in the fifth-starter’s competition with Daisuke Matsuzaka, John Lannan and Jenrry Mejia.

“There’s a huge difference,” the 6-foot-4, 185-pound deGrom said, contrasting last spring training with this one. “Last year I didn’t help myself coming in with a broken finger. I would have liked to have gotten a couple of chances to pitch over here with a call-up from the minor-league side, but I had the broken finger. And then to be invited this year, it was just an honor.”

DeGrom threw nearly exclusive fastballs, with one changeup and one slider, against the Nats. His strikeout victims included Ryan Zimmerman to conclude the two-inning appearance.

“I was nervous. I had some butterflies,” deGrom said. “But I feel like everybody does when they get out there to pitch. I didn’t really think about it a whole lot. My whole focus was trying to locate. I feel like good location is the key to pitching.”

Montero, who started the game, felt good about his outing as well. He coaxed a flyout from Nate McLouth, a groundout from Danny Espinosa and then struck out Zimmerman looking in the first. An inning later, Montero struck out Adam LaRoche looking, retired Ian Desmond on a fly ball to center field and coaxed an inning-ending groundout from Wilson Ramos.

“I liked that I kept my pitch count down,” Montero said through an interpreter. “That’s what I try to do every time I get out there.”