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Wheeler makes statement in rotation audition

MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

MIAMI -- During his brief banishment to Triple-A Las Vegas, Zack Wheeler says he watched every Mets game. He watched them win on Opening Day, then again two days later, then again and again and again -- six straight by the time he arrived in Miami this week, seven by the time he donned a uniform on the bench. Wheeler was proud of his teammates. But he ached to play a part himself.

That opportunity came quicker than expected, when a sequence of unforeseen events -- an injury to Jason Vargas, a snowstorm before the Mets' fourth game of the season, a run of bullpen dominance by nominal fifth starter Seth Lugo -- prompted the Mets to call on Wheeler. He considered it a chance "to make a little statement," to prove that he can be a part of this mix after all. He couldn't have auditioned much better than he did, striking out seven over seven innings of two-hit, one-run ball on Wednesday in the Mets' 4-1 win over the Marlins.

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MIAMI -- During his brief banishment to Triple-A Las Vegas, Zack Wheeler says he watched every Mets game. He watched them win on Opening Day, then again two days later, then again and again and again -- six straight by the time he arrived in Miami this week, seven by the time he donned a uniform on the bench. Wheeler was proud of his teammates. But he ached to play a part himself.

That opportunity came quicker than expected, when a sequence of unforeseen events -- an injury to Jason Vargas, a snowstorm before the Mets' fourth game of the season, a run of bullpen dominance by nominal fifth starter Seth Lugo -- prompted the Mets to call on Wheeler. He considered it a chance "to make a little statement," to prove that he can be a part of this mix after all. He couldn't have auditioned much better than he did, striking out seven over seven innings of two-hit, one-run ball on Wednesday in the Mets' 4-1 win over the Marlins.

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"It's a lot of satisfaction," Wheeler said. "You want to be up here and you want to be a part of it. And I was able to help out tonight."

Video: NYM@MIA: Callaway, Wheeler discuss comeback victory

The only damaging mistake against Wheeler occurred in the first inning, when he left a 96-mph fastball where Miguel Rojas could hammer it for a solo homer. Wheeler walked a batter later that inning and allowed a two-out hit in the second before retiring the final 16 batters he faced. Throughout the evening, Wheeler showcased a delivery he has been working on since spring, keeping his elbow higher to reduce the stress on it.

"He looked great," catcher Kevin Plawecki said. "I saw a lot of weak contact tonight."

Tweet from @AnthonyDiComo: Zack Wheeler says he's worked since spring on a mechanical tweak, preventing his elbow from dropping during his wind-up. He's been tremendous tonight, with six strikeouts in five innings of one-run ball. He's only thrown 65 pitches. pic.twitter.com/lCF7Qb7tKt

Wheeler will receive another start on Tuesday against the Nationals, manager Mickey Callaway all but confirmed, setting the Mets up to repeat a bit of anecdotal history. Wednesday marked the first time that Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Wheeler -- all hard-throwing prospects who debuted from 2012-15 -- completed a rotation turn in sequence. Among the many reasons why it had never happened was because Wheeler missed the entire '15 and '16 seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery, then pitched his way out of a rotation job this spring.

"It's just a comment on how fragile starting pitching is," Mets assistant general manager John Ricco said.

Tweet from @Mets: .@WheelerPro45 says tonight was very satisfying and he was happy with his outing. 💪🔥 #MetsWWWWWWWWin! pic.twitter.com/aRsAh7hlMB

That was on display throughout the evening at Marlins Park, where Miami starter Jarlin Garcia no-hit the Mets for six innings. But the Marlins removed Garcia after a career-high 77 pitches, citing a desire to keep his arm healthy as he transitions from the bullpen to the rotation. Two innings later, the Mets rallied for four runs, making a winner out of Wheeler for the first time since last May.

"It's very satisfying," Wheeler said. "I'm very happy with tonight's performance."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

New York Mets, Zack Wheeler