PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Earlier this week, Mets manager Mickey Callaway approached Zack Wheeler to implore him not to worry about his role -- starter, reliever -- heading into Grapefruit League play. Concern yourself with throwing strike one, strike two, Callaway said. The rest will fall into place.With that
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Earlier this week, Mets manager Mickey Callaway approached Zack Wheeler to implore him not to worry about his role -- starter, reliever -- heading into Grapefruit League play. Concern yourself with throwing strike one, strike two, Callaway said. The rest will fall into place.
With that bit of encouragement, Wheeler thrived in his first spring game Friday, dialing his fastball up to 97 mph in a 15-pitch, scoreless first inning that catcher Travis d'Arnaud called "perfect." Wheeler and seven other Mets pitchers combined to strike out 13 batters in a 6-2 win over the Braves.
"It keeps you at ease," Wheeler said of Callaway's chat. "It just allows you to concentrate on what you need to be concentrating on."
For Wheeler, that's mostly control. Velocity has never been a problem for the former top prospect, even coming off 2015 Tommy John surgery and his subsequent setbacks. The issues have been health -- something Wheeler is optimistic about heading into Grapefruit League play -- and efficiency.
If every Mets pitcher is healthy this spring, it may be difficult for Wheeler to crack a rotation consisting of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Jason Vargas, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz. Understanding that, Mets officials have already begun debating the merits of using Wheeler as a reliever.
But they have not made that decision quite yet. And if Wheeler spends the next month pitching the way that he did Friday, it may become a difficult choice for the team to make.
"When I'm healthy, I know what I can do and I know what I'm capable of," Wheeler said. "I'll just keep my head down and go out there and pitch whenever they need me to."
Following a moment of silence Friday to honor the victims of the Parkland school shooting, David Wright accompanied a group of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students to deliver the Mets' lineup card at home plate.
"I've been a Met fan for my whole life," said Jordan Faber, 17, a senior at Stoneman Douglas. "This is my dream. It is terrible that it's under these circumstances. I do not want to be here under these circumstances. However, this is an awesome thing and it's helping me get my mind off of what happened at our school, which is just horrific."
Like all 30 teams, the Mets took the field wearing Stoneman Douglas caps. Faber and others had their own hats autographed by Mets players.
"I'm just so thankful that Major League Baseball is with us," said Devon Wiesenfeld, 18, also a senior at Stoneman Douglas. "It's been really tough."
Todd Frazier wasted little time recording his first hit with the Mets, grounding a single under shortstop Dansby Swanson's glove in the first inning Friday. It was Frazier's first game action since signing a two-year, $17 million deal with the Mets earlier this month.
"It felt really good," Frazier said. "The crowd was hyped today."
:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
Taking his hacks
Tim Tebow's back-field exploits continued Friday, when he hit a sharp ball to the gap against Harvey during live batting practice. Tebow subsequently declined an interview request.
Seth Lugo, who is competing for a job in the Mets' rotation, will start when the team hosts the Cardinals in a 1:10 p.m. ET game Saturday at First Data Field. Gerson Bautista, New York's No. 29 prospect -- whose fastball has been clocked at 101 mph -- is also scheduled to appear in the game. The Mets acquired Bautista and two other pitchers from the Red Sox for Addison Reed last July.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.