Mets strike positive tone with Zack Wheeler despite struggles

Zack Wheeler pitched six scoreless in his first career start. Credit: Getty Images
Zack Wheeler pitched six scoreless innings in his first career start.
Credit: Getty Images

Mets manager Terry Collins’s message to Zack Wheeler on Monday was that there will be growing pains.

“He better be [even-keeled] if he’s going to pitch in this league very long,” Collins said before the Mets’ 5-4 come-from-behind win over the Diamondbacks in 13 innings at Citi Field. “I think he’s realistic enough to know he’s got the stuff to pitch here, that he’s good enough to pitch here. He didn’t make pitches. That’s pretty much the general consensus of everyone who was involved.”

Wheeler, whom the Mets acquired from San Francisco on July 8, 2011 in a trade that included Carlos Beltran, was hammered by the Nationals Sunday in his first start at Citi Field.

Wheeler was pulled after 4 2/3 innings after allowing five runs — all earned — on six hits in the Mets’ 13-2 loss. The right-hander gave up two home runs — solo shots to Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth — and walked two. He did strike out five.

“You make mistakes in this league, you’re going to pay for them,” Collins said. “So I expect him to be much better in his next start.”

While the statistical evidence showed a pitcher who knocked around the park, Collins found positives after viewing tape of the game and meeting with Wheeler and pitching coach Dan Warthen.

“Actually he made some pretty good pitches,” Collins said. “He just missed a couple locations on some balls that came back to hurt him. His velocity at times looked better than what I saw on the scoreboard.

“We had a discussion with Zack about some things today, and we’re pretty excited about four days from now to get him back out there.”

Wheeler is scheduled to start in Friday night’s series opener against the Brewers in Milwaukee. It will be his fourth major-league start since being called up on June 18. He is 1-1 with a 5.06 ERA.

Following his second start, a 5-4 loss to the White Sox on June 25 in which he had a no decision despite giving up four runs on four hits in 5 1/3 innings, the Mets admitted Wheeler was tipping his pitches.

Monday, Collins thought the issue was that Wheeler was overexcited for his first home start as a Met and his velocity dipped after the first inning.

“That’s probably the main reason,” Collins said when told catcher John Buck theorized that part of the dip in velocity was due to more two-seam fastballs. “We’re hoping that he goes back out there in his next time out and throws the ball the way we saw the first two times out.

“I know he was all wrapped up in pitching [well Sunday], in his first home start. So hopefully he relaxes in his next one and gets into a little bit of a groove to where he’s more comfortable.”

Follow Mets beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman.


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