The New York Mets got their Grapefruit League schedule started on Saturday afternoon, and at the center of attention was rookie pitcher Zack Wheeler. Wheeler, who is taking part in major league spring training for the first time this year, made his first unofficial appearance on a big league mound; and he did not disappoint.
Wheeler pitched in relief of Shaun Marcum, who started for the Mets, pitching the 3rd and 4th innings. The butterflies were apparent early on in his appearance, as Wheeler overthrew pitches at first and got behind in the count to the first few batters, but Wheeler soon settled in and started to look like one of the top pitching prospects in the game. His delivery was smooth and the ball flew out of his hand almost effortlessly, as he regained his command quickly and got back in the strike zone with both his fastball and his two breaking pitches.
With his early command struggles, Wheeler allowed a runner to reach third base with just one out. It was then that Wheeler showed himself to be in midseason form, both physically and mentally. With the infield drawn in and a runner at third ready to score, Wheeler struck out the next two batters he faced to get out of the inning unscathed after blowing away the second batter with a high fastball to finish him off. It was more of the same in the next inning, as Wheeler only allowed a single on a high chopper back up the middle. He also proved himself capable of fielding his position, as Wheeler handled a ground ball hit right back to him.
Overall, it was an impressive two-inning performance by Wheeler, as he looked the part of an elite pitching prospect. It’s going to take a lot more than one good performance to give Wheeler a chance to break camp in the Mets rotation, but it set the tone for the rest of the spring, and gave Mets fans just a glimpse into what he’s capable of doing.