WASHINGTON — The Mets will have a familiar face returning from the minor leagues to pitch Wednesday night in Miami.
In need of a starter and not wanting to disrupt the team’s bullpen dynamic that includes Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman, manager Mickey Callaway will give Zack Wheeler another shot, even if for just one start, against the lowly Marlins.
The 27-year-old Wheeler was strong in his start for Triple-A Las Vegas on Friday, when he allowed one earned run on three hits over five innings. It was Wheeler’s first appearance since his demotion to the minors in spring training.
“He had a great start in Triple-A, and everybody thought he was worthy of going up here,” Callaway said before the Mets faced the Nationals on Sunday. “I think the feedback we got, the confidence was there, he was feeling really good physically and his slider was wipeout and he was challenging every hitter he faced, so really good spot confidence-wise and stuff-wise.”
Wheeler is filling Jason Vargas’ spot in the rotation. The lefty Vargas threw a simulated game Saturday, but is still throwing from behind a screen after undergoing surgery last month to remove the hamate bone in his non-pitching hand. Vargas’ readiness to throw isn’t the issue as much as how he would field a batted ball.
Wheeler flopped in his last two Grapefruit League starts, eliminating him from consideration for Vargas’ spot. Lugo was penciled into the rotation, but hasn’t started — the Mets were postponed because of weather last Monday and the right-hander was skipped in the rotation. Lugo has since pitched twice from the bullpen, throwing three scoreless innings.
Wheeler’s promotion will allow the Mets’ heralded five starters to pitch in the same rotation for the first time. Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz have all been healthy, forming the nucleus of that rotation.
“We just have to let [Wheeler] pitch on Wednesday and just kind of go from there because we are not sure of Vargas’ timetable,” Callaway said. “Spot starts or whatever you want to call them turn into five-year careers sometimes because you just never know what is going to happen. Bring him up on the 11th and let him start and go from there.”
Todd Frazier bought about 100 T-shirts displaying the Mets’ new “Salt and Pepper” slogan, emblematic of the team’s “grind it out” approach at the plate. Frazier said he is ordering another 100 shirts because he misjudged the sizing, noting there aren’t as many players wearing XXL shirts as he anticipated.
Eliminated from the clubhouse has been the victory belt, which was awarded to the Mets’ player of the game following a win. Michael Cuddyer instituted the belt in 2015.