Jacob deGrom still doesn’t look like the Mets’ Opening Day starter

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Opening Day might not be a given for Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom, who’s slowly working his way back from a bout of back stiffness in camp. The righty tossed a bullpen session on Sunday in preparation for an upcoming simulated game later this week, but the current rate of his recovery process suggests that he’ll only be able to make four Grapefruit League starts before the start of the season, well under the 5-6 outings every other starter is expected to make. And that’s if everything goes according to plan.

The 29-year-old righty avoided any major injuries during his 2017 campaign with the Mets. He went 15-10 in 31 starts with a 3.53 ERA, 2.6 BB/9 and 10.7 SO/9 in 201 1/3 innings and earned Cy Young consideration at the end of the season. It was the first time he’d logged over 200 innings in a single season, something he might do again in 2018 if his rehab doesn’t cut into the regular season too much.

Still, the Mets have every right to be cautious as they return from an injury-plagued season, one in which they lost Noah Syndergaard to a torn lat, Matt Harvey to a stress injury in his shoulder, Zack Wheeler to a stress fracture in his arm and Steven Matz to elbow surgery. Given that deGrom was often the healthiest starter in the rotation last year, rushing him back to make the ceremonial first start of the year seems imprudent. At least, that was the sentiment expressed by pitching coach Dave Eiland following the right-hander’s latest workout. “With Jacob deGrom, we will not make an exception,” he told reporters Sunday. “That’s stupid. We’re not going to be careless just so he can pitch Opening Day.”