Wheeler's return finally completes dream rotation
Righty joins Syndergaard, deGrom, Matz and Harvey on Mets' staff
WASHINGTON -- Zack Wheeler's stint at Triple-A Las Vegas was brief. The Mets will call up Wheeler to make a spot start Wednesday, marking the first time that Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Matt Harvey and Wheeler will take consecutive turns in the rotation.
"Everybody thought he was worthy," manager Mickey Callaway said of Wheeler.
A favorite to make the Mets' Opening Day rotation after Jason Vargas broke a bone in his glove hand late in Spring Training, Wheeler pitched his way out of the mix with an 8.10 ERA and 2.40 WHIP in five outings. The job instead went to Seth Lugo, but a combination of off-days and a snow postponement prevented the Mets from needing a fifth starter until Wednesday.
They could have given that assignment to Lugo. But Callaway has grown so enamored with using Lugo and Robert Gsellman as wipeout relievers late in games that he did not want to remove either from his current role. Those two entered Sunday's play unscored upon in seven innings, with 13 strikeouts and no walks.
"They add a whole other dynamic to our bullpen, and help us win games," Callaway said.
Wheeler, meanwhile, shined in his first start for Las Vegas on Friday, striking out six over five innings of one-run ball in a notorious hitter's park. He is lined up for Wednesday's start on regular rest.
"The feedback we got was that the confidence was there," Callaway said. "He was feeling really good physically, and his slider was wipeout. He was just challenging every hitter he faced. So he's in a real good spot confidence-wise and stuff-wise."
This is the first time Syndergaard, deGrom, Harvey, Matz and Wheeler -- long considered the foundation of a team built around pitching -- have been healthy simultaneously, in large part because Wheeler missed the entire 2015 and '16 seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery.
But the Mets' dream rotation may not stay intact for long. Vargas, who threw six innings in a simulated game Saturday, could make a Minor League rehab start Thursday, lining him up to return as soon as April 17. That may prevent Wheeler from making more than a single start in the big leagues, although much can change over the next week-plus.
"Spot starts, or whatever you want to call them, turn into five-year careers sometimes," Callaway said. "You just never know what's going to happen."
Third baseman Todd Frazier had custom-made "salt and pepper" T-shirts printed for his teammates, who received them Sunday at Nationals Park. Frazier, who has helped spearhead the Mets' "salt and pepper" on-field celebration, printed up blue and orange shirts featuring those words, as well as a pair of hands grinding a salt or pepper shaker.