Marc Carig of NY Newsday wrote that a year ago when Zack Wheeler arrived in Mets camp, television cameras tracked his every move, and he was deemed to be the Mets next big thing and would rescue the Mets and their rotation.
But this spring all the attention has been on Noah Syndergaard and less on Wheeler which is something that he has noticed, “It definitely is more calmed down,” said Wheeler.
When Wheeler made his major league debut last June, Matt Harvey was already the Big Thing in baseball, the Ace of the rotation, and tearing through the National League by posting a 9-6 win/loss record that should have been more like 12-3, only if the Mets bullpen would have not blown some of his masterpieces.
But on June 18, when Wheeler finally arrived, the Mets were facing the Atlanta Braves as part of a day/night doubleheader and after a dominating performance by Harvey in Game 1, where he tossed seven innings, giving up three runs on three hits, with 13 strikeouts, it was Wheeler’s turn to take the mound, and with all the hype and attention leading up to his debut, it was well worth it. The rookie right-hander didn’t disappoint in the night cap when he threw six innings, giving up four hits, not allowing a run while striking out seven.
After Harvey went down with an arm injury in late August that ended his season, Wheeler did his part and continued to mature into a big league pitcher. Down the stretch in August and September, his record (1-4 after Harvey went down) may not have indicated that, but it was more of the bullpen not providing sound relief.
Now Wheeler is ready to take the ball and open the 2014 season for the Mets, and even though Terry Collins has indicated that Jonathan Niese should get the nod, he may be changing his mind once again, “With our situation right now, hell, he [Wheeler] may be the Opening Day starter,” Collins said.
The 23-year old pitcher enters his first full big league season, and he may be one of the most important arms in the rotation. In 2015, when Harvey is slated to return, the Mets may have three of the best pitchers in the game, which will mean that Wheeler and Syndergaard have made a huge progress in 2014, and that is not out of the question.
Plus, Wheeler is ready to do what he must to make sure he is there for the young fire baller, “I told Noah if he needs any help with anything, I’m here for him, and I’m sure Harvey is, too,” Wheeler said. “It’s nice just to sort of sit back and watch.”
The impending Ace is already acting like a veteran, with calm and ease and he may be the guy to lead this Mets rotation into the 2014 season and make their mark on baseball.
The Mets are in good hands with Wheeler and he proved that in part on Tuesday when he made his spring debut and tossed three scoreless innings, giving up two hits, and striking out three, with just 40 pitches, topped with a 96 mph fastball. Even Collins noted that Wheeler showed improved feel with his curveball and more confidence with his change-up.
With so much attention going to Syndergaard, it is great that Wheeler is continuing to progress even if it’s somewhat under the radar. What will count the most this summer is how he will pave the way for Harvey’s return and Syndergaard’s shining star.
The 2014 season will be filled with so much excitement and it will start with each Wheeler outing especially after he opens the season for the Mets as the true Ace in the making. Happy Wheeler Day here we come! LGM.
Photo Credit: Howard Simmons/NY Daily News)