Found June 18, 2013 on Fox Sports South:
ATLANTA -- When former MLB pitcher Steve Kline made his major league debut in April 1997, he elevated his eyes to take the lights and fans and noise of Oakland-Alemada County Stadium and the immediate effects were of the nauseating variety. Big league debuts are not easy. According to Kline's star pupil in Low-A ball, he threw up off the back of the mound. So as that star pupil, Mets top prospect Zack Wheeler, readied himself to make his MLB debut Tuesday night in Atlanta, Kline's advice rang loud in his ears: "Don't look up." He didn't at least not at first. "It was an experience," Wheeler said. "When you're trying to settle yourself down and sorta slow things down and think about what the next pitch is going to be and who's on-deck, you can just look around and calm yourself down." By most standards, Wheeler did not disappoint. There were frustrating jams and walks and mound visits, but the right-hander delivered the promised goods, pitching six scoreless innings and striking out seven to earn his first career win. With his parents sitting behind home plate with none other than Braves legend Chipper Jones -- the two are both agent Al Goetz's clients -- and a hefty scattering of his loyal metro Atlanta following, the East Paulding High School product ran into his share of difficulties, but kept fighting his way out. In the first inning, only eight of his 23 pitches were strikes and the Mets used two mound visits (an unofficial one from veteran David Wright, then an official one led by Mets pitching coach Dan Warthan) to get him out unscathed. His walk back to the visiting dugout was slow, deliberate. Again, debuts are rarely easy. Wheeler went on to allow a walk or hit in each inning. "I was really impressed with the way he competed after he walked a couple guys. He stepped off the mound, got his composure and went after people with his fastball," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "That's what the stars do. The big ace pitchers they have the ability to reach down inside when times are tough and make big outs." The bottom line, though, is that on June 18 Collins filled out two lineup cards featuring two pitching phenoms, and a beleaguered fanbase watched along with anticipatory vigor. Zack Wheeler's ability provides hope. The Mets certainly need it. Four minutes into Wheeler's introductory press conference on Monday afternoon, in an auxiliary clubhouse buried deep beneath Turner Field's seats, the term "savior" came up for the first time. It's an odd expression to hear expressed in a sports press conference. Yet, such is Wheeler's oft-used moniker; his designated role. Welcome to the Mets. But for a franchise wallowing in a 328-385 record over the past five seasons -- the team's last winning season came in 2008 -- religious references come with the territory. Potential sparks hope sparks faith. Wheeler, the No. 6 overall pick by the Giants in the 2009 MLB Draft before heading to New York's farm system in the 2011 Carlos Beltran deal, has every tool to generate such hype. The No. 7 prospect entering the season (as ranked by MLB.com), the 23-year-old's electric fastball, which touched 96-98 mph consistently Tuesday, and above-average breaking stuff have the Mets believing that their rebuild has a viable foundation. Still, "savior" is rather strong, misleading even. "I don't think I'm the savior. At all," Wheeler said. "We've got great arms here and we've got great players. We might not be doing to well right now, but I know the talent of these guys and hopefully we can turn it around here soon. Hopefully we can turn it around and everyone can like us again." Co-star is more appropriate. If anything, besides sleep deprivation and a little more Georgia rain, Tuesday's Braves-Mets doubleheader provided a preliminary crystal ball for the future of New York's rotation. At least, that's the hope for general manager Sandy Alderson and his front office. Wheeler's strong performance Tuesday night came on the heels of budding superstar Matt Harvey's no-hit bid in the early game, a seven-inning, three-run performance in which the end result did not reflect the dominance. Harvey did not allow a hit until the first out in the seventh inning; he struck out a career-high 13 batters. The North Carolina product is poised to be an All-Star, perhaps even a Cy Young contender. To his credit, Wheeler did not shy away in the encore. "That's the thing. He set the bar so high because he just took off once he got up here," Wheeler said of his former minor league teammate. "I know people expected it; some people didn't. I'm just going to go out there and do the best that I can. People can take it as they want it." However, the overarching storyline defining the Harvey-Wheeler duo -- "Two Co-Stars (Or Co-Saviors) Attempt To Rescue Mets From NL Cellar" is not one either pitcher buys into, at least not on the surface. Both players seem to understand that, in a sport like baseball, hoisting a team up on one's shoulders rarely precedes a focus on one's individual performance. Wheeler relayed as much in his opening presser; Harvey echoed similar sentiments following his latest gem. "When it's my time to battle, it's my time to battle," Harvey (6-1, 2.16 ERA) said when the "co-savior" questions came about in Turner Field's visiting locker room. "My job is to go out and control what I can control. It starts with my focus, my approach." With the opposing NL East teams retired to their respective locker rooms, there was a crowd around Wheeler's locker, waiting to hear just how the soft-spoken ace-in-waiting refused to relent to one of the most explosive lineups in baseball. It received a few smiles and (possibly) even fewer words: "I was happy with my outing. Ready to move on to the next one." Harvey was already gone, his media responsibilities fulfilled earlier in the day. Perhaps it's unfair to compare the two arms -- after all, one is already enjoying wild success while the other is still seeking a spot in the rotation -- but, when allowed to watch them back-to-back in the same ballpark on the same day, it's tough not to. Wheeler's shutout first MLB outing will go down right along with some of the best Mets debuts in recent memory, right alongside the Harveys and Dillon Gees. How to ignore such production and high praise? With the two wins, the Mets are still just 27-40. Since there is no available spot in the rotation, Wheeler is expected to head back down to the minors. The restoration project is nowhere near complete; nothing is saved. But there is hope. The Mets certainly need it. "I just hope that not only you guys who are here to see it, but people elsewhere saw it and it was watched. Certainly, they're going to enjoy watching these two young guys for a long time. They're gonna be around and they're gonna be in the same rotation we've got two guys who are gonna win some baseball games for ya."
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

A Deeper Look At Zack Wheeler’s Debut

I noticed a few things during Zack Wheeler’s start I’d like to point out. A few things impressed me and there are some things that are noteworthy after doing some research: Of Wheeler’s seven strikeouts, six were swinging and it was only the opposing pitcher that took a called third strike. All seven third strikes were fastballs. Six were four-seamers, none of those were less...

Zack Wheeler Lives Up To Hype

Zack Wheeler is here, so the New York Mets might as well get a real good look under his hood to see how the gears in his gut work. The Mets believe they have another young star pitcher in their midst, but were on verge of watching a scoreless debut unravel. At the time, a Mets’ 6-1 victory and doubleheader sweep of the first-place Braves seemed highly unlikely. WHEELER: Wins debut...

Top prospect Zack Wheeler ready for NY Mets debut

Zack Wheeler is excited about his big league debut with the New York Mets, especially since he'll be pitching not far from where he grew up. Wheeler is a native of suburban Atlanta and will have plenty of family and friends in the stands at Turner Field on Tuesday night, when he pitches the second game of a doubleheader against the Braves. The 23-year-old right-hander is one...

Zack Wheeler ready for Mets debut

Now that he's about to make his highly anticipated debut with the New York Mets, Zack Wheeler will rely on some advice he got from a minor league coach. Don't look up. ''I know it's going to be a big moment in my life,'' Wheeler said Monday, the day before he takes the mound against the first-place Atlanta Braves. ''There's probably going...

Will Mets Fans Be Ready For A New Reality?

You may or may not have heard: Zack Wheeler was pretty good in his debut. That was on top of Matt Harvey being otherworldly earlier that same day. On what was clearly the best day of this benighted 2013 season, Mets fan and Mets player alike got a personal jolt from these two electrifying performances. Evidence of the clubhouse digging it was the sight of half the team surrounding...

Wheeler Deals, Mets Sweep Braves In Nightcap, 6-1

On a day billed as Super Tuesday, the Real Deal and the Wheel Deal became running mates that Mets fans hope to support for years to come.  Just hours after Matt Harvey held the Braves hitless into the seventh inning, Zack Wheeler kept Atlanta off the scoreboard through six frames, picking up the victory in his much-anticipated major league debut, as the Mets defeated the Braves...

Where Does Wheeler Rank Among Best Mets Pitching Debuts?

Mark Simon of ESPN New York had a great post on Sunday in which he ranked the Top 11 memorable Mets debuts over the team’s history. He included both pitching and hitting debuts. Check out his work and research here. (This is great for some of you younger Mets fans) I pulled the pitchers out of his list to see where Zack Wheeler might rank on this list. Here are the top five. ...

The Future Of The Mets Is On Full Display Tomorrow

On Tuesday, during the second game of a doubleheader against the first place Atlanta Braves, Mets prized pitching prospect Zack Wheeler will make his long anticipated major league debut. For Wheeler, he will feel unlike any other pitching prospect who who is making his first big league start. He’ll be wound up tighter than the guts of a baseball and those butterflies will be fluttering...

Daily Notes: Zack Wheeler Debuts Today, For Your Information

Table of Contents Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of the Daily Notes. 1. Featured Game: New York NL at Atlanta, 19:10 ET 2. Today’s MLB.TV Free Game 3. Today’s Complete Schedule Featured Game: New York NL at Atlanta, 19:10 ET The Purpose of This Post, Predominantly The purpose of this post predominantly is to prolong the author’s employment with FanGraphs...

Harvey Wheeler Day Doubleheader Game Preview

THE BIG DAY. Today is more than just Harvey day. It is more than Wheeler day. It is more than Wheeler debut day. It is Harvey and Wheeler Day! I would say chances of this happening again are rather slim but the Mets run into bad weather like I miss the subway (ie. a lot). Anyway, last night’s game got delayed until after 10 and the Mets ended up losing the game 2-1 after a 2 run...

Last Night We Saw A Big Chunk Of “The Plan”

Believe it or not, I ended up missing most of the game last night tending to some medical issues. But you have to love the the technology era we live in. Thanks to my phone, those mid-inning video updates from the MLB app, my Twitter app, and of course DVR. It felt like I was there. This morning at 7:05 AM I watched the game in it’s entirety and wow was I impressed. I can’t even...

Daily Fantasy Baseball Analysis June 19: Harvey-Wheeler Day

Harvey dominates and Wheeler deals The New York Metropolitans have a new-look rotation in 2013. Rookie ace Matt Harvey has burst onto the scene with dominant command and has become an instant fantasy star. Waiting in the wings all season long has been uber-prospect Zack Wheeler, and yesterday the Mets got a chance to do something [...]

BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 226: Predictions About Zack Wheeler/The Story of Signing Puig by Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller

Ben and Sam discuss their expectations for Zack Wheeler and other young pitchers, then talk about the true story behind the Dodgers signing Yasiel Puig.

Top Prospect d’Arnaud Cleared To Begin Running Program

Anthony DiComo is reporting that Travis d’Arnaud has been cleared to begin a running program, after he saw doctors today. That’s great news, and now you can get your minds running about the possibility of Travis d’Arnaud catching Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler in September. D’arnaud should be heading to Port St. Lucie to get his rehab started. I’m sure all Mets fans are...

Mets Super Tuesday Preview: Harvey and Wheeler Headline Today’s Double-Dip

  New York Mets at Atlanta Braves Turner Field, Atlanta • Game 1 1:10 PM • Game 2 7:10 PM RHP Matt Harvey (5-1, 2.04) vs LHP Alex Wood (0-0. 3.52) RHP Zack Wheeler (0-0, 0.00) vs LHP Paul Maholm (7-5, 3.65) Game 1 Staring Lineup Here is the lineup for the 1:10 p.m. matinee of a split doubleheader against the Atlanta Braves. Collin Cowgill, lf Daniel Murphy, 2b David Wright...
MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.