- Adam Rubin, ESPNNewYork.com
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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Jacob deGrom thought he was spending this weekend in Las Vegas with the Mets.
Instead, deGrom was removed from the trip and told he was going to Las Vegas ... the Triple-A team.
DeGrom and reliever Jeff Walters were the optioned to the minors Friday morning, reducing the number of players still in camp to 47.
DeGrom should form a stellar Triple-A rotation with Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero and quite possibly Jenrry Mejia, plus Logan Verrett and/or Cory Mazzoni.
Jacob deGrom will open the season in Triple-A Las Vegas' rotation.
But as Thursday's Grapefruit League game demonstrated, the 6-foot-4, 185-pound deGrom's eventual big-league debut this season may come in relief, as may be the case with Montero. That's partly because successful organizations such as the St. Louis Cardinals often introduce young pitchers to the majors via the bullpen. It also is a reflection of the Mets' starting-pitching depth, and the need to squeeze Syndergaard into the big-league rotation at some point this year already.
"For years and years and years, if you were a young pitcher and got the big leagues, you probably went up as a relief pitcher in organizations that are winning, because their rotations are set," Terry Collins said. "Guys all went up as relief pitchers, and then maybe the next year transformed to a starter. I don't know what to expect, because I don't have a crystal ball. We know we've got great arms. And no matter what happens, we have a great security coming -- not just with Walters and deGrom, but with all the kids."
DeGrom, a ninth-round pick out of Stetson in 2010, who mostly played shortstop in college, got a taste of relieving in Thursday's Grapefruit League game. He inherited two runners from Syndergaard in the eighth and served up a game-tying three-run homer to Brock Peterson on his second pitch. He then contributed a scoreless ninth. Overall, he posted a 1.23 ERA in 7 1/3 Grapefruit League innings, while allowing four hits and three walks and striking out seven.
"That was a learning experience," deGrom said about relieving. "I'm glad I got that. ... I think I had done it in college, but I don't remember. That was different. You've got to come in and be ready. I threw that first-pitch slider, and it wasn't a very good one. And then I went fastball and he got it. It's one pitch that I left up, and he took advantage of it."
Still, his spring-training performance was not bad for a pitcher who arrived in minor-league camp a year ago with a broken finger on his glove hand -- the result of getting kicked by a small calf. DeGrom eventually rose all the way from Class A St. Lucie to Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2013 season.
"The things I like: He's a good athlete, with continued room for improvement given his lack of experience coming up as a college shortstop. He has a lean, loose, frame. The stuff is good," one NL scout said. "The thing I don't like: The long arm swing in his delivery lacks deception and allows hitters a good look. I'd like to keep him as a starter for now to develop secondary pitches, but he may eventually wind up in the bullpen."
Meanwhile, Walters -- who set Double-A Binghamton single-season and career saves records last season with 38 -- had a 2.45 ERA in four Grapefruit League relief appearances spanning 3 2/3 innings. He allowed three hits and had one strikeout.
DeGrom said his one disappointment in camp was his control. In-season, deGrom’s fastball typically sits at 91-94 mph. The sinker is complemented by a slider and a changeup.
"My location has been a little off this spring," deGrom said. "Normally I get ahead of hitters. I've been falling behind quite a bit, so I'm going to work on that."
Said Collins: "I told him this morning: There's no question we'll see him sometime."