While the New York Mets got an early taste of their future Saturday, it was the other half of a possible battery that delivered his best outing of the season 24 hours later.
Just one day after catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud made his Major League debut, pitching prospect Jacob deGrom showed the team's brass that the organization has more than just position players waiting in the wings.
The 25-year-old carried a perfect-game bid into the sixth inning in the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s' 6-3 win over the host Salt Lake Bees on Sunday.
"Yeah, I knew," deGrom said of the perfecto. "There were a couple [Salt Lake] fans yelling at me from about the third inning when I walked off the field. They were just, 'Hey, do you know you have a perfect game going?' Stuff like that. They were just trying to get into my head.
"I felt like I threw the ball well. I was locating well and I had some great plays made behind me. I was throwing my two- and four-seamers and a lot of changeups and sliders and a couple curveballs. I got a lot of guys out on fastballs, and my changeup was probably my second-best pitch today."
The right-hander cruised the first time through the order, starting with three ground balls to Ruben Tejada in the first inning. He set the side down in order in the fourth and fifth frames, but Roberto Lopez broke up his shot at history with a line drive to left field to begin the sixth.
"I have to tip my cap to [Lopez]," deGrom said. "I don't think I made a mistake. He didn't hit it hard, just out of the reach of [shortstop] Ruben [Tejada], like a soft line drive over him. It was a good pitch, he just hit it in the right spot. It was 1-2 or 2-2, so I would have maybe liked to throw it in the dirt."
An inning later, deGrom's shutout also fell by the wayside. Luis Jimenez walked to lead off the seventh and Efren Navarro moved him over to third with a double to left field.
That chased deGrom from the game, but incoming 51s pitcher John Church yielded a run-scoring groundout to Luis Rodriguez and a sacrifice fly off the bat of pinch-hitter Robbie Widlansky. Both runs were charged to deGrom who then could not factor in the decision.
"The leadoff walk hurt me," he said. "I went 3-0 to him and I should have gone right at him with a 2-0 lead. Then I gave up the double and that was that. I knew I was getting up there with my pitch count and I knew that if I got in trouble, someone would come in. That leadoff walk killed me."
Statistically, this may not have been his best Triple-A start of the year, but by every other evaluation -- including that of how he felt on the mound -- this ranked right up there.
The Stetson University product has pitched deeper into games this year (seven innings in Tacoma on June 29, 6 2/3 innings against New Orleans five days ago) and he's allowed fewer runs in games (zero against Salt Lake in his third PCL start June 23). There have also been contests in which he's struck out more batters (three tied a Triple-A season low) and games in which he's issued fewer free passes (zero in Reno on July 18).
But as a package this might have been the best combined effort and deGrom hopes this kind of outing will eventually lead to a promotion to Queens.
Between deGrom pitching across three levels and d'Arnaud missing time with a foot injury, the duo has rarely been on the same field at the same time.
In fact, the only time deGrom has thrown to d'Arnaud this season was Tuesday, when he gave up three runs on nine hits. But deGrom remembers that game more for his first Triple-A homer than for having d'Arnaud dropping the signals behind the dish.
"That was the first time," deGrom said of throwing to d'Arnaud, one of seven Mets players to catch him between the three levels this season. "That was a good feeling. I felt like he had a good gameplan and that was a nice feeling. It's definitely a big loss to the team. He's a great hitter and really good behind the plate.
"It's always nice throwing to one catcher a lot because they get really comfortable with you. It would have been nice to throw to him a few more times, but I'm happy he got moved up. [Francisco] Pena called a really good game today. I was throwing quite a lot of 3-2 changeups instead of fastballs to get them out and Pena knew that. I wanted to throw [the changeup] in those situations and he wanted me to throw it. He had confidence in it and so did I."