PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — At a time of spring training when the shine of players’ mere presence has worn off but games have not yet begun, daily workouts come with a risk of tediousness.
Thursday was not one of those days for the Mets. During a live batting practice showdown, Jacob deGrom and Yoenis Cespedes went mano a mano, with the two-time Cy Young Award winner seeming to get the better of the hobbled slugger.
“It got ramped up almost to like regular-season mode right there,” manager Luis Rojas said. “Jake was out there going after Ces and he kept smiling, kind of like disrupting his timing, holding the ball long. That was good ol’ fun. I'm glad they're having fun while they're going through camp.”
Cespedes’ most square contact might have been a line drive to leftfield — a swing that resulted in a broken bat. That induced a big smile from deGrom, who cheesed some more on two swing-and-misses from Cespedes, including on the last pitch of their duel.
Then they met between the mound and the plate for a laugh and a hug.
“Cespedes was like, 'Hey, I haven't faced pitching for a while,'” Rojas relayed. “And (deGrom was) like, 'You hit a ball out the other day and you hit another ball off the wall. I'm not letting you do that.' He gets competitive out there and he's a guy that wants to perform. He wants to get you out.”
The Mets and Orioles will play an exhibition March 24 at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. That is after the Mets leave Florida at the end of spring training (March 23) but before Opening Day at Citi Field (March 26). … Dellin Betances faced batters Thursday for the first time since suffering a partially torn left Achilles tendon in September. He said it went smoothly, adding, “It’s always good to get the first one out of the way.” … Righthander Corey Oswalt said he dealt with no ill effects after taking a line drive off his right foot Wednesday. … For their last full-squad workout before games begin, the Mets will change it up Friday, playing a three-inning scrimmage on a Clover Park practice field. Hitters will be split into two teams and face a pitching machine.