SARASOTA, Fla. -- Zack Wheeler gave up just three earned runs all spring before Monday, but in his final Grapefruit League tuneup, the right-hander yielded four first-inning runs, including two home runs, in the Mets’ 9-7 comeback win over the Orioles. New York took it thanks to a two-out ninth-inning
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Zack Wheeler gave up just three earned runs all spring before Monday, but in his final Grapefruit League tuneup, the right-hander yielded four first-inning runs, including two home runs, in the Mets’ 9-7 comeback win over the Orioles. New York took it thanks to a two-out ninth-inning three-run homer by Dominic Smith.
Wheeler went just three frames, giving up five hits and five runs while striking out two and walking a pair in his 56-pitch outing (34 strikes).
“I went a little too lackadaisical into it,” Wheeler said, admitting to throwing more “hittable pitches” than usual. “It’s mental. You try to really zone in, but at the same time you know you’re out there to get your work in.”
Wheeler was also throwing to catcher Wilson Ramos for only the second time, and that relationship is still in progress.
“We were trying to figure each other out, at the same time,” Wheeler said. “He’s pretty solid back there. And we all know he can hit. He’s pretty good back there behind the plate. So it’ll be fun.”
Wheeler is slated to pitch the third game of the 2019 season, against the Nationals in Washington on Sunday.
Coming off a stellar performance against the Cardinals, in which he threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings and struck out four while allowing just two hits, Wheeler opened the game with a 95 mph fastball to strike out O's leadoff batter Cedric Mullins.
But things took a turn for the worse on the very next pitch. Orioles right fielder Dwight Smith Jr. hit his first of two home runs off of Wheeler, a long blast that cleared the center-field fence just to the left of the 400 feet sign. It was Baltimore first baseman Chris Davis who delivered the biggest blow of the first inning, getting all of Wheeler’s 96 mph fastball and belting a three-run homer. Smith took Wheeler deep again to open the third, cranking a 95 mph fastball over the left-center-field fence.
“I hate that this was the last one right before the season, but I’ve had plenty of success this spring,” Wheeler said. “So I’ll sort of just look at that and concentrate on that. I think I had a pretty good spring, besides today. It went well. I accomplished some things I wanted to do and kept it pretty simple. I’m going into the season ready to go.”
Wheeler won a career-high 12 games and compiled a career-best 3.31 ERA last season for the Mets, with an outstanding second half. He was 9-1 in 11 starts after the All-Star break with a 1.68 ERA.
Mets reportedly in talks with Rivera
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports that the Mets are in talks with free-agent catcher Rene Rivera.
It appears that catcher Travis d'Arnaud, still recovering from Tommy John surgery, will start the season on the injured list. It also appears as though Tomas Nido will make the team as a backup catcher. Rivera would potentially replace Devin Mesoraco at Triple-A Syracuse.
All indications are that the Mets plan to place Mesoraco on the restricted list rather than grant him his release. Assuming they do, Mesoraco intends to retire, according to a source. He will not report to Triple-A with the Mets organization.
“I think we’re always looking for depth to help us out,” said Mets manager Mickey Callaway, who was unaware of the potential move. “At this moment, if we can put ourselves in a better situation, I think that we’re always open to that. But we feel comfortable with who we have out there today.”
McNeil making the most of his opportunity
Jeff McNeil was batting ninth in Double-A Binghamton on Opening Day 2018. Fast forward to Spring Training this season and the versatile 26-year-old has earned his first Opening Day roster spot in the Majors.
With Jed Lowrie still recovering from a sprained left knee, McNeil started at third on Monday and came through again. He went 2-for-2 at the plate, an afternoon that including hitting his fourth home run of Grapefruit League play, and finished camp with a .352 batting average.
“Last few days I’ve been seeing the ball well,” McNeil said. “I feel good up there [at the plate].”
McNeil also plays second base and left field, but he isn’t concerned about where the Mets will put him. He said he hasn’t been told where he’d appear, in the lineup or in the field.
“Not officially, but I would imagine third base,” McNeil said. “Last few games have been there, so I’ll know in the next few days. I just want to play, wherever they put me.”
If it is third base, McNeil said he’s up to the challenge.
“I feel good there,” he said. “Making all the routine plays. I feel good over there. I feel good in left. Wherever they need me this year, I’m ready.”
Cano completes a torrid spring
Robinson Canó reached base safely in all but two games this spring. He went 3-for-4 with a run scored on Monday, finishing 18 games of Grapefruit League play with a .441 batting average with seven runs scored, four doubles, two homers, four walks and seven RBIs.
Cano hit .303 with 10 homers and 50 RBIs in 80 games last season with the Mariners. Before 2018, he had played in at least 150 games in 11 straight seasons.
The Mets wrapped Grapefruit League action on Monday and are set to open the regular season at 1:05 p.m. ET on Thursday against the Nationals. Right-hander Jacob deGrom gets the start for New York. It’s his first Opening Day start. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner will be opposed by Washington right-hander Max Scherzer, the runner up to deGrom in last year’s NL Cy Young Award voting.