The two-time Cy Young Award winner, sidelined all season by a stress reaction in his right scapula, threw 60 pitches over five innings in a simulated game Thursday at the team's complex in Florida.
Mets manager Buck Showalter said deGrom felt good Friday and his next step will be a throwing session Sunday as part of a work day at Citi Field in New York. After that, if all goes well, he'll pitch for a minor league affiliate a few days later and then get slotted into the big league rotation.
"I think it'd be good for Jake,'' Showalter said. "It's just kind of where he is. He's doing the things he needs to do to return. The hope is that he makes a start after his work day and we look to slot him in, see how everything goes. If he needs another one after that, then we'll do it. We've been operating for quite a while without him. We're looking forward to operating with him. But when it happens, it happens.''
That means deGrom definitely won't return in time to face the crosstown New York Yankees at Citi Field next Tuesday or Wednesday. The earliest possibilities for his season debut would be July 31 at Miami or a three-game series in Washington from Aug. 1 to Aug. 3.
"He knows what it takes to pitch up here,'' Showalter said.
The right-hander has already made three minor league rehab starts totaling 8⅔ innings. He's allowed an unearned run and five hits with 15 strikeouts and one walk. He went four innings during the most recent one last week for Triple-A Syracuse.
It's still unclear which affiliate deGrom will pitch for next.
"It was kind of up in the air anyway as far as how many more he was going to do,'' Showalter said. "We didn't have to push it, so we didn't. When we get him back, we want this to be behind us.''
The 34-year-old deGrom was initially supposed to throw live batting practice Tuesday, but the outing was pushed back two days after he experienced muscle soreness in his pitching shoulder.
DeGrom hasn't pitched in the majors since July 7, 2021. He missed the second half of last season with right forearm tightness and a sprained elbow.
Even without him, the Mets had a 2½-game lead in the National League East over defending World Series champion Atlanta as they got set to open the second half Friday night at home against the San Diego Padres.
"Jake's where he needs to be, and we'll see how Sunday goes,'' Showalter said.
Right-handed reliever Trevor May also plans to work out Sunday at Citi Field. May has been out since May 3 with right triceps inflammation.
"Trevor's doing great. Pretty excited about his progress, too, "Showalter said.