PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Jacob deGrom has a shadow, and his name is Matt Allan.
When the Mets invited Allan, their top pitching prospect, to his first major-league spring training this year, minor-league pitching coordinator Ricky Meinhold told him he frequently would be assigned to the same group as deGrom. The message: Take advantage.
"Ricky basically said, ‘Wear him out with questions. He’s prepared, he knows you’re going to talk his ear off. Absolutely wear him out with any questions that you have,’ " the 19-year-old Allan relayed Thursday. "He’s always been so good to give me an honest answer and give me an explanation, not just say, ‘This is what I do.’ He’s been really good about saying, ‘This is what I do and this is why I do it.’ "
When pitchers and catchers arrived at camp last week, Allan didn’t even need an icebreaker. He and deGrom already had interacted periodically during the past year when they worked out at Stetson University, deGrom’s alma mater, which is close to their central Florida homes.
During MLB’s coronavirus shutdown last year, Allan hit up Mets catcher Patrick Mazeika, another Stetson product. Mazeika told Allan to come work out. Allan obliged, not realizing the Mets’ ace would be there.
"I showed up and saw deGrom throwing and I was like, ‘No way, I wish you would have told me this earlier. I would have been able to keep it together a little better,’ " Allan said. "But just seeing him throw and the way he goes about his business, the focus and intent, you see why the guy is a back-to-back Cy Young winner."
DeGrom reported back to Mets decision-makers and had only positive things to say about Allan, spurring Meinhold to partner the pair during formal workouts. "That really segued well into coming here," Allan said. "I didn’t feel as nervous talking to him or anything. It was just right into it."
The Mets drafted Allan in June 2019, but he has pitched in only six games as a professional because the 2020 minor-league season was canceled. He features a mid-to-upper-90s fastball, an above-average curveball and a changeup that he said he is much more confident in now relative to years past.
The repertoire is good. The mentor is better. Allan called deGrom "arguably the best pitcher in all of baseball."
"The best thing for me that I’ve noticed with deGrom is it’s a two-way conversation. It’s not me constantly going up to him and saying hi and talking. He comes up to me a fair share . . . and says, ‘Hey, watched your live [batting practice session] the other day, why did you throw this pitch? Maybe think of this.’ "
The Mets bolstered their catching depth by agreeing to sign Caleb Joseph, a source said. A veteran of parts of seven major-league seasons, Joseph has a career .222/.270/.351 slash line . . . SNY announced it will broadcast 11 of the Mets’ 24 exhibitions, starting with Tuesday, the first home game . . . Assistant pitching coach Jeremy Accardo reported to camp Thursday. He had been out to handle a family issue.
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