For New York Mets fans, it seems like pitchers Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler have had their names linked together for some time now, even if the two have only been pitching in the same organization for just over a year. That’s what excitement and anticipation will do as the hope of this somewhat jaded fan base looks for something to cling to as we head into the 2013 season. Matt Harvey, who finished his 2012 campaign with a 2.73 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 10 starts for the Mets, will be in the starting rotation when the new season kicks off, but Zack Wheeler is likely to begin the year at Triple-A once Spring Training comes to an end.
Between now and then, however, the two will be viewed with anxious eyes by fans visiting the team in Port St. Lucie. According to Kevin Kernan of the New York Post, Mets manager Terry Collins likely wouldn’t have it any other way.
Zack Wheeler followed Matt Harvey yesterday in a short bullpen session, perhaps a sign of things to come for the Mets’ Future Aces.
Photo by Michael G. Baron
Manager Terry Collins set it up so Wheeler lockers next to Harvey to soak up advice on the path to the majors. Wheeler is almost certain to start the season in Triple-A, just as Harvey did last season. Harvey made his first start for the Mets on July 26. Wheeler could get to Citi Field earlier if he dominates in the minors.
When the Mets needed a starter last April 23, they called up Jeremy Hefner in lieu of Harvey, who was mediocre for a time at Buffalo. Collins wants to make sure all of his pitchers understand the quickest route to a callup is posting dominating numbers at Las Vegas (the new home of the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate).
“Matt can help Zack in so many ways,’’ Collins said. “I want him to learn from Matt and the quickest way for any of our young pitchers to get called up is put up dominating numbers in the minor leagues. If Matt had put up those numbers earlier, he probably would have gotten called up, but the reports on him were rather mediocre. I talked to Wally [Backman, Triple-A manager], and he said Matt wasn’t using his curveball the way he should have used it.’’
Right from his first start in the majors it was evident that Harvey had the make up of a great competitor. Fans will certainly hope he can build on his success of a year ago and clearly Collins thinks he can help Zack Wheeler as he ascends to the majors. Wheeler, according to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, is also just looking for a shot to compete and knows the transition comes with challenges.
I’m just going to try to go out there and do my best and make them make a decision, and make it sort of hard on them,” said Wheeler, who already has been told by Terry Collins the Opening Day roster is a long shot. “Wherever they send me, I’m just going to go out and compete, because I know my job is to go out there and pitch. I’m not going to get down if they send me to Triple-A. I’m hoping I’ll make the team, but if I don’t, I’ll go to Triple-A, work hard, and hopefully I’ll get the call-up soon after.”
After a promotion from Double-A Binghamton, Wheeler made six late-season starts for Triple-A Buffalo in 2012. He went 2-2 with a 3.27 ERA while allowing 23 hits and 16 walks and striking out 31 in 33 innings.
“The strike zone got a little bit smaller,” Wheeler said, contrasting Triple-A to Double-A. “I wasn’t really expecting that, but it did. The higher you go, the smaller it’s going to get. You just have to adjust. I think hitters, they chase more down to up, instead of side to side. Like with the slider, they don’t chase that sweeping slider. You just can’t make mistakes. That’s really what I learned.”
It really does seem as though Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler are destined to have their names mentioned in the same breath for years to come and if that ends up being the case, it’s likely to make a lot of people in New York happy. Neither pitcher, however, has their sights simply set on the future. As Harvey told Jorge Castillo of the Star Ledger:
Photo by Michael G. Baron
I’m keeping my head down and doing what I can do to win this year,” Harvey said. “There’s 25 guys going up to New York, and we’re going to try to win from day one. Obviously, there’s huge upside to what’s possible in the next couple years, but we don’t look at it that way. I don’t look at it that way. I look at it as what’s going on right now and how we can win.”