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Wheeler to start spring opener vs. Braves

Righty looking to make Mets' rotation; Thor throws batting practice; Mets to wear memorial caps Friday
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Perhaps no one's status in Mets camp is more tenuous than that of Zack Wheeler, who could end up in the rotation, the bullpen or off the roster altogether. With that as his backdrop, Wheeler will kick off the Mets' Grapefruit League schedule when he starts Friday against the Braves at First Data Field.

Wheeler, Hansel Robles, Paul Sewald and a host of roster hopefuls will appear in the game, the Mets announced Wednesday. Seth Lugo will then start the team's second Grapefruit League contest on Saturday, followed by Robert Gsellman and each of the clubs' top four relievers on Sunday. Wheeler, Lugo and Gsellman are all fighting for jobs in the Opening Day rotation.

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Perhaps no one's status in Mets camp is more tenuous than that of Zack Wheeler, who could end up in the rotation, the bullpen or off the roster altogether. With that as his backdrop, Wheeler will kick off the Mets' Grapefruit League schedule when he starts Friday against the Braves at First Data Field.

Wheeler, Hansel Robles, Paul Sewald and a host of roster hopefuls will appear in the game, the Mets announced Wednesday. Seth Lugo will then start the team's second Grapefruit League contest on Saturday, followed by Robert Gsellman and each of the clubs' top four relievers on Sunday. Wheeler, Lugo and Gsellman are all fighting for jobs in the Opening Day rotation.

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For Wheeler, the outing will be the first of several auditions to prove he belongs in New York's starting five. The addition of Jason Vargas created a crowded rotation for the Mets, who will consider moving Wheeler to the bullpen if Matt Harvey and Steven Matz both win starting spots. For now, though, the Mets want to see how Wheeler performs early in games.

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"He's definitely a starting pitcher," manager Mickey Callaway said. "For us to be the best possible team we can be, we have to have him be a starter. He's going to go out there and do everything he can to win this competition that we have going on."

Callaway also said that outfielder Juan Lagares is likely to bat first on Friday. The Mets plan to use Lagares frequently as their leadoff hitter this spring, in an attempt to get him as many reps as possible with his revamped swing.

Reining it in
As usual, Noah Syndergaard drew a crowd for his live batting practice session Wednesday, eliciting oohs from the crowd when he tied up outfielder Zach Borenstein with a pitch, causing Borenstein to lose his grip on the bat.

It made for good entertainment, but the Mets are wary of Syndergaard doing too much, too soon on the heels of a season that saw him throw just 30 1/3 innings due to injury. The Mets hope Syndergaard will be able to dial back his signature fastball until he truly needs the triple-digit heat.

Video: Syndergaard talks about his offseason workouts

"I talked to him before I ever saw him throw because I knew about that already," Callaway said. "He's a big boy with a good arm. And when you get a guy like that, sometimes it is hard to reel it back. His 80 percent looks like a lot of guys' 100 percent. We just want him to make sure that he's not overdoing it at any time."

In memoriam
The Mets will wear Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School caps during their Grapefruit League opener on Friday, in support of those affected by the Parkland school shooting last week.

The Mets plan to wear the caps during both batting practice and the game, then sign them and auction them off to raise funds to benefit the Broward Education Foundation's official victims fund. Two players in Mets camp, Anthony Swarzak and Luis Guillorme, attended high school in Broward County.

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

New York Mets, Zack Wheeler