Michael Conforto, New York Mets
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

With Opening Day closing in, there’s plenty to talk about with the New York Mets, including news on ace Jacob deGrom and stud outfielder Michael Conforto.

Perhaps no player is more important to the New York Mets‘ chances of contending in 2018 than ace Jacob deGrom. After missing time early this spring with an injury, the now-short-haired righty looked to be in midseason form on Friday against the Baltimore Orioles, fanning eight batters over five innings of work.

“I felt good today,” deGrom told MLB.com’s Oliver Macklin. “The main thing was just trying to stay smooth out there and work on all my pitches, and I was actually able to probably throw them better than I thought I’d be able to.”

The most surprising thing from deGrom’s outing, perhaps, was that he used his curveball, a pitch that he threw a career-low 9.53 percent of the time in 2017.

“That’s the best [the] curveball has ever felt,” deGrom told coaches as he walked off the field. “If he can add that pitch to his repertoire often, he’ll be pretty dangerous,” manager Mickey Callaway added.

For a pitcher that is already “pretty dangerous,” the addition of wipeout curve could push him to new heights of excellence in 2018.

Michael Conforto Gets In A Game

For the first time since undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery in September, Michael Conforto got into a game. Granted, it was a “B” game against minor-league competition, but any game action is good game action for the Mets’ young star outfielder.

Conforto saw 22 pitches in total and was pleased with how he felt afterward.

“It was a good first step, a step in the right direction,” Conforto told Macklin. “It was good to see some pitches and actually have a competitive situation.”

As for whether he thought he was still on track for a projected May 1 return to the big leagues, the 25-year-old refused to get ahead of himself.

“I’m thinking about tomorrow. I’m thinking about getting my timing back. … We’ll see when that date is. It kind of goes by when I feel like I can perform at the level that I need to.”

“The Glider” Glides Off

Ed Charles, a key figure on the “Miracle Mets” World Series championship team in 1969, passed away this past Thursday, the team announced.

While not a long-time Met—he spent parts of three seasons with the club—Charles became known as the team’s “poet laureate” and had a penchant for coming through with big hits in clutch situations.

Per the Associated Press (via ESPN):

“He singled off Baltimore’s Dave McNally in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the World Series and scored the go-ahead run on Al Weis’ sacrifice fly as the Mets won 2-1 for a 2-0 series lead en route to the Mets’ first title. Charles provided leadership to an expansion team that had established itself as lovable losers in its initial seasons. Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy was fond of saying: “Never hang a slider to the Glider.”

Charles was 84 years old. Everyone at ESNY sends their condolences to his family, friends and former teammates.

Rafael Montero On The Move?

Sources have told NJ.com’s Matt Ehalt that “the Mets have started preparations for a possible trade with Rafael Montero a candidate to be dealt.”

Montero, 27, has struggled mightily this spring, pitching to an 8.31 ERA and 1.85 WHIP. The once highly touted right-hander is out of minor-league options.

While the Mets could opt to keep him around and see if he’s able to turn things around, Ehalt’s sources indicate that there is some interest from other teams. That said, it’s hard to imagine another team giving the Mets anything of value in exchange for Montero.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out over the next two weeks.

I've been dunked on by Shaq and yelled at by Mickey Mantle. ESNY Editor In Chief. UMass alum. Former National Columnist w/Bleacher Report & former member of NY Knicks Basketball Ops department. Nephew of Rock & Roll Royalty.