ATLANTA - Jacob deGrom has known for a while that this day was coming. Nevertheless, on the eve of Monday's home opener at Citi Field, deGrom said he is "definitely excited" to take the ball against the Phillies.
"I've been looking forward to it," said deGrom, the reigning National League Rookie of the Year.
The Mets created a stir when they named 41-year-old Bartolo Colon their Opening Day starter. It was a curious choice to begin a season that largely will be shaped by young arms.
But with the Mets preparing to take their home field for the first time, the honor belongs to deGrom, the 26-year-old who has turned himself into a staple of the starting rotation.
"It's something he should remember for a long time," manager Terry Collins said Sunday before the Mets' 4-3 victory over the Braves.
With Matt Harvey out for all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, deGrom emerged to fill the void, going 9-6 with a 2.69 ERA in 22 starts. He will fill the void again, with Harvey set to make his home debut Tuesday night.
Once the Mets decided against pitching Harvey in the home opener, Collins said deGrom was "certainly targeted" to get the assignment.
"I think it's great for him, a tip of the hat to what he accomplished and who he is," Collins said. "And it will be fun to watch."
On Wednesday, in the first start of his sophomore season, deGrom took a 2-1 loss when he was outdueled by the Nationals' Jordan Zimmermann. The outcome hinged on a two-run homer in the first inning by Ryan Zimmerman, on a fastball that deGrom thought he had buried too far inside to be hit hard.
"That's pretty easy to shake off," said deGrom, who insisted that he will treat his upcoming start no differently.
The Mets hope salvaging Sunday's series finale against the Braves will provide a boost for the home opener, which is expected to be played before a sellout crowd at Citi Field.
"It's really important for us," Collins said. "We are going home for Opening Day. It's nice to go on a good note."
The Mets wrapped up their first road trip with a 3-3 mark. They had won two of three against the Nationals before dropping two of three against the Braves.
"It was big to finish the road trip 3-3," said Michael Cuddyer, who hit a two-run homer Sunday and will make his Citi Field debut as a member of the Mets. "It's nice to salvage this series and get excited for the home opener."