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SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP)Jacob deGrom came out of his first bullpen session of spring training for the Texas Rangers on Thursday feeling good after not throwing off a mound the first eight days of camp with his new team.

”It was a small step, but a step in the right direction,” deGrom said.

The two-time National League Cy Young Award winner was held out of the Rangers’ first official workout Feb. 15 because of tightness in his left side. He threw off flat ground four days after that, and had thrown about six bullpen sessions before getting to Arizona.

The right-hander threw 22 pitches, all of them easy fastballs, during Thursday’s session. About half the pitches were from a half-height mound, and he then finished on a regulation mound.

”They said just nice and easy,” deGrom said of what coaches told him to do. ”The goal of today was to just go through my delivery, stay nice and smooth. … Not trying to do too much, let everything get in line, and let my delivery be nice and clean.”

DeGrom said the plan moving forward was to keep progressing, build up his pitch count and get in some games. His first bullpen session came a day before the Rangers’ scheduled Cactus League spring opener, and exactly five weeks before the regular season opens at home March 30 against NL champion Philadelphia.

”Felt really good,” he said. ”The past few days have felt really good, felt back to normal.”

Texas signed deGrom to a $185 million, five-year contract in December. The 34-year-old deGrom spent the first nine years of his big league career with the Mets, but injuries limited him to 156 1/3 innings in 26 starts over the past two seasons.

After missing the final three months of the 2021 season with right forearm tightness and a sprained elbow, deGrom was shut down late in spring training last year because of a stress reaction in his right scapula. He didn’t pitch in the big leagues last season until August, then became a free agent for the first time.

He felt what he called minor tightness in his left side after getting to Arizona, and told team officials about it. His right arm has felt good throughout.

”The last thing you want to do is come in and say, `left side’s a little sore.’ But, you know, we were cautious with it,” deGrom said. ”Looking at it now, I think that was the right step. You’ve still got time to build up and get ready.”

New Rangers manager Bruce Bochy, who spoke to reporters before Thursday’s workout, said the previous day that there were no concerns about deGrom’s delay getting on the mound.

”Well, you look at the throwing he did before, we decided to back off a little bit,” Bochy said. ”It’s not any concern on our part, especially where we’re at in spring training here. … He feels great.”

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