Jacob deGrom has thought about cutting his trademark long, flowing hair but superstitiously reconsidered removing what may be locks of luck after two riveting seasons with the Mets.
The 2014 Rookie of the Year and 2015 National League All-Star (he struck out the side on 10 pitches in his only All-Star inning) wants to add “World Series’’ champion to his resume. His career numbers: 23-14 with a 2.61 ERA and 349 strikeouts in 331 1⁄3 innings. When the Mets made him their ninth-round draft choice in 2010, nothing close to that was expected from him.
“When I think about it, it’s still kind of crazy and hard to believe,’’ deGrom said from his home in DeLand, Florida. “I’m just thankful that I’m able to do something that I love that I’ve done my whole life.’’
DeGrom said that as spring training approaches, he recalls last year’s camp. “We said our goal was the World Series,’’ he said. “We had everybody on board. We went on a pretty good run there after the All-Star break. Then it was to the World Series and win it. We fell a little short of the ‘winning it’ part. We got the taste of it. We want to go back.’’
The Mets could have the best rotation in the big leagues, and with that comes big expectations.
“To be a part of that and mentioned as highly as we are, we’re honored about that,’’ deGrom said. “We don’t talk much about it. I think we go out there and I think we expect ourselves to put up zeros and put our team in a position to win. We kind of feed off each other, learn from each other, and we have a lot of fun.’’
Matt Harvey and deGrom are the projected aces in a rotation that will include Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and, eventually, Zack Wheeler, but deGrom said being anointed No. 1 is immaterial to him. “Harvey and I are really good friends,’’ he said. “ I don’t think it’s bothered either one of us whenever we hear somebody say I’m the ace, he’s the ace. We don’t get caught up in any of that and I think that’s what keeps us so close.’’
While the Mets’ starting rotation should remain similar to last season, the lineup has undergone changes, including the departure of Daniel Murphy to the Nationals. “I’ve talked a little bit to Murphy, congratulated him,’’ deGrom said. “I think we all realize that’s part of the game. Murphy was a great guy to be around. My first game in the big leagues, he said, ‘You belong here, go out and pitch.’ That’s something that will stick with me. That’s something I’m going to do when I face him.’’
DeGrom has spent part of the offseason plotting ways to cut down on his pitch count so he can go deeper in games, but the best part of his routine comes late in the afternoon when he plays catch with his father, Tony, at his parents’ home. It’s a ritual that deGrom looks forward to recreating with his own son. His birth is expected April 5, when the Mets are scheduled to play their second game of the season against the Royals in Kansas City.
“I play catch right in the front yard like I did when I was younger,’’ he said. “It’s a time that we both enjoy. I’m thankful that my dad is still able to do that with me. He really enjoys it and so do I.’’