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Jacob deGrom battles control in first spring start

Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom throws during

Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom throws during the first inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game against the New York Yankees Wednesday, March 9, 2016, in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Credit: AP / Jeff Roberson

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Jacob deGrom was right on the money in his first start of spring training.

Except for one pitch.

DeGrom, who refused to sign his 2016 contract last week and was renewed by the Mets for $607,000, allowed one run and five hits in three innings Wednesday in the Mets’ 4-4, 10-inning tie with the Yankees before a standing-room-only crowd of 7,558 at Tradition Field.

It was one of deGrom’s pitches that had him shaking his shaggy-haired head after the game. DeGrom fired a 2-and-1 fastball to minor-leaguer Dustin Fowler that went over the batter, over the catcher and all the way to the backstop.

As Bob Uecker might say, “Just a bit high!”

Said deGrom: “I threw a ball halfway up the backstop and that wasn’t what I wanted to do. But that’s my second time facing hitters. I threw the one live BP and the other one got scratched. It was just getting back out there and kind of getting the feel for things. You get a little amped up when somebody steps in the box.”

To his credit, deGrom rallied after the errant offering and threw a strike before retiring Fowler on a pop-up for the first out of the third inning. The Yankees took a 1-0 lead later in the inning when Aaron Hicks doubled inside the first-base bag and Chase Headley drove him home with a single to right.

DeGrom, whose fastball sat in the low 90s, struck out two and did not walk a batter. He said many of his fastballs were high, though not as high as the one pitch to Fowler.

“I think I was trying to take a little off to get it down,” deGrom said. “That wasn’t working. I don’t know. It was kind of a battle out there. The slider was probably the pitch I had the most control of. I was throwing a lot of them just because I was struggling with throwing the fastball and changeup for a strike.”

DeGrom’s debut followed that of both Steven Matz and Bartolo Colon on Monday and Matt Harvey on Tuesday. Noah Syndergaard faces the Cardinals on Thursday to round out the first go-round for the vaunted Mets rotation.

It’s a different story from last spring training, when Syndergaard and Matz had yet to pitch in the majors and Harvey was coming off Tommy John surgery. Now the Mets are in the position of just getting their pitchers ready for the season and hoping nothing goes wrong before the April 3 opener.

“With all of them, it’s just about slowing their deliveries down and making pitches and finding that good, consistent release point on their pitches so that they’re ready to go,” manager Terry Collins said. “Just keep running them out there.”

The Mets scored four times in the fifth against top prospect James Kaprielian to take a 4-1 lead. T.J. Rivera had a two-run double and Yoenis Cespedes contributed an RBI single. Another run scored on an error by catcher Gary Sanchez.

But New York’s Grapefruit League bragging rights will have to wait until the teams meet again March 22 in Tampa. Yankees minor leaguers Kyle Higashioka and Sebastian Valle homered off Antonio Bastardo in the ninth to send the game to one mutually agreed-upon extra inning. When neither team scored, everyone went home.

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