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The Mets will be careful with Jacob deGrom, even if that makes him doubtful for Opening Day

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The pitcher has a lot of training to make up in a short amount of time.

MLB: Washington Nationals at New York Mets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

We’re just over three weeks away from the Mets opening up the 2018 regular season with a home game against St. Louis on March 29. Jacob deGrom is the de facto starter in that game due to his outstanding performance over the past four seasons, but he’s hasn’t done a lot of throwing during spring training due to the birth of his daughter and a minor back injury.

Even though we’re still far away from Opening Day, it’s already looking like it will be Noah Syndergaard or someone else toeing the rubber. That’s because the Mets want deGrom to make five starts in spring training before he’s considered ready for regular season action. And it doesn’t sound like the coaches are going to budge on that number.

“For Jacob deGrom, we will not make an exception,” pitching coach Dave Eiland said after deGrom’s side session Sunday. “That’s stupid. We’re not going to be careless. We’re not going to be careless so he can pitch Opening Day. If it falls where he can, he will because he earned it. He deserves that start. But we’re not going to push the envelope and be careless and then he starts Opening Day and then he doesn’t start again until June.”

The first of those could come in a simulated game that deGrom is schedule to throw on Tuesday, but even if that goes off without a hitch, and he continues to pitch on every fifth day, the right-hander would fall just short of Opening Day readiness. Pitching on every fifth day would mean deGrom making his fifth start in a simulated game — no Grapefruit League action is scheduled that day — on March 26, which is just three days before the regular season opener.

The good news is that due to the off day on March 30, deGrom can still make his 2018 debut during the second game of the campaign on the final day of the month. That means that we would still get to see Syndergaard and deGrom pitch back-to-back during the first two games. And we know that Syndergaard is on pace for Opening Day, even if he didn’t reach 100 miles per hour during his second Grapefruit League outing.

Talking about deGrom missing Opening Day might be frustrating for Mets fans who are weary of injury talk, but it’s hard to argue with New York’s cautious approach. deGrom starting the season completely healthy and making a push for 200 innings again would go a long way towards the Mets competing for a postseason berth.