Jacob deGrom had just finished throwing a bullpen session with St. Lucie in April when he learned he was being sent to Double-A Binghamton. Only two starts into his season, he took the news in stride.
"I don't think I was really surprised," said deGrom, who began this season as the No. 12 prospect in the Mets system. "I had played at St. Lucie at the end of last year."
The former Stetson standout, drafted by New York in the ninth round in 2010, was 6-3 with an 2.51 ERA in 15 starts for Savannah in the Class A South Atlantic League in 2012. He was then sent to St. Lucie to close out the campaign, going 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA in four starts.
deGrom debuted in fine fashion for Binghamton on April 17, allowing one run on three hits in eight innings in his first Eastern League start, at home against Portland. But in his next six starts he gave up 26 earned runs over 33 2/3 frames.
"I was struggling with command a little bit," said deGrom.
He bounced back and yielding just five earned runs in his next three starts, including two runs over seven innings in a no-decision June 9 at Altoona.
"They are more disciplined," he said of Eastern League hitters. "They have more of a plan, and they hit your mistakes better."
deGrom throws a two-seam and four-seam fastball, slider and changeup. The right-hander, who turns 25 on Wednesday, is 2-5 with an 4.80 ERA in his first 10 starts with Binghamton. He has struck out 44 and walked 20 in 60 innings.
"My changeup has gotten a lot better in the past year or so," he said. "It's become a pitch I can strike people out with, along with my slider. I just want to have consistent starts for the rest of the year. I had some rough outings a couple of weeks ago. I just want to stay consistent, locate the ball and keep the ball down."
The Florida native is fairly new to pitching.
He was a shortstop as a freshman and sophomore at Stetson before he became a pitcher as a junior, first as a closer before working his way into the rotation.
Stetson pitching coach Chris Roberts, a first-round pick of the Mets in 1992 who helped lead Binghamton to an EL championship in 1994, worked with deGrom as he made the adjustment from shortstop to the mound.
"He was a good shortstop, very rangy," Roberts said. "Obviously his best tool was his arm. We toyed with the idea of getting him on the mound. It was really more out of necessity -- we needed another arm. It was just easy for him. He could pick up his leg and put it down and boom. He is a tremendous athlete in general."
A marked improvement: Infielder James Beresford, who signed with the Twins as a non-drafted free agent in 2005, hit .266 during his Double-A debut last season with New Britain. This year he was hitting .316 for the Rock Cats when he was promoted to Triple-A Rochester. He played for Team Australia in March's World Baseball Classic and carried that experience into this season. "I think it's mostly the mature factor," Beresford said in Bowie just before he was sent to Rochester. "It is a pretty big jump from Single-A to Double-A. Guys are better with their pitches and location. I'm more comfortable now -- I know what to expect."
Back in Harrisburg: Right-hander Nathan Karns made three starts for the Washington Nationals after he was promoted from Double-A Harrisburg in late May, going 0-1 with an 7.50 ERA. The No. 6 prospect in the Washington system was sent back to Harrisburg on June 12. "Mistakes over the plate cost you big time up here," Karns said while in Washington. "If you make a mistake over the plate, you are going to pay for it. That's the biggest thing I've learned."
Another strong outing: Drake Britton didn't sit on his laurels after being named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Week. The Portland left-hander allowed two runs -- one earned -- in seven innings Sunday in a 7-4 win over visiting Akron. "When you put up two runs early, that may be all Drake needs," teammate Peter Hissey, who had three hits, told The Portland Press-Herald. Britton is now 6-5 with an ERA of 3.08. Hissey hit his first homer for the Sea Dogs, who open a series Tuesday at Trenton with a doubleheader.