SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) – Two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom finally pitched in a game for the Texas Rangers, though it was on a back field against minor leaguers.

The Rangers have been cautious with their prized addition since he reported tightness in his left side before the first spring training workout just less than a month ago. His first spring start came in the more-controlled environment for Triple-A Round Rock on Monday, when he struck out five of the eight batters he faced while throwing 20 of 24 pitches for strikes over two innings against Kansas City minor leaguers at the complex the big league franchises share in Surprise, Arizona.

“The first couple of batters, I didn’t locate my fastball that well,” deGrom said. “The second inning I dialed it in a little bit. Everything felt great. I threw all four pitches. I’m really happy with it. Changeup, curveball I think are going to be plus-pitches this year. I was able to mix them in quite a bit.”

New Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said deGrom looked “really good” with his delivery and velocity, and got better as he went.

The only hit allowed by deGrom was an inside-the-park home run by Omar Hernandez, the second batter faced. The ball ricocheted high off the batter’s eye in center field and past two outfielders.

After his two innings in the game, deGrom threw 23 more pitches in the bullpen. He said he anticipates being ready for opening day March 30.

Texas signed deGrom to a $185 million, five-year contract in December. He spent his first nine big league seasons with the New York Mets. but injuries limited him to 156 1/3 innings in 26 starts over the past two years. The 34-year-old right-hander threw about six bullpen sessions before arriving in Arizona, but was delayed in throwing in camp after telling the team he was stiff.

“The last thing I want to do is call in and say my left side is a little tight. (The Rangers) handled it great, they said let’s take four days and knock it out. Get it behind us,” deGrom said. “This one was interesting because if I had it during the season I would have pitched with it. We caught it early enough. We have plenty of time let’s do the smart thing here.”