Wheeler Still Aiming For That Opening Day Start Against Nats

zack wheeler

Zack Wheeler hasn’t eased up his quest to pitch on Opening Day, standing firm on his remarks last week to The Post’s Kevin Kernan which you can read below this update.

Wheeler ramped up his statements to tell Adam Rubin he aims to be on the mound likely opposing Stephen Strasburg when the Mets open the season on March 31 at Citi Field.

“Last year I was coming in trying to win a spot,” Wheeler said Monday. “This year I’m trying to get the Opening Day spot. 

“I am a rookie still. And it’s nothing on those guys, on the other starters, because anybody in the starting rotation could be the Opening Day starter. But that’s just my mindset coming in — to push myself to try to get the Opening Day spot.” 

That would be a great opening day matchup if it were to happen…

You have to appreciate this kid’s tenacity…

February 6th, 1:00 AM 

Move out of the way, Jon Niese. Step aside, Dillon Gee. Don’t even think about it, Bartolo Colon. There’s only one pitcher who can start on Opening Day, and Zack Wheeler wants it badly.

“I’m going into spring training trying to win that Opening Day job,’’ Zack Wheeler told Kevin Kernan of The Post on Tuesday after arriving to the Mets spring training complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla. “That is my mind-set going in, no doubt about it.”

“I feel really good right now and I am really confident going into camp.’’

Wow, I love that kind of swagger…

And if you think Wheeler is the fourth man on the totem pole for that Opening Day nod, not according to Terry Collins and he’s the one that makes the call.

On Monday, the Mets manager told The Post that Wheeler, after just 17 major league starts, is strongly in the running for Opening Day starter with Matt Harvey recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Of course the decision will come down to everyone’s spring training performances, but you gotta love the confidence and enthusiasm that 23-year old Wheeler has going into camp. This is what you want to see from everyone. This is what spring training is all about.

David Wright also understands that there’s a lot riding on Wheeler, especially with Harvey out for the season.

“We need Zack Wheeler to build on what he established last year,’’ Wright said. “He’s got No. 1 stuff. He’s a humble player, but you want him to get that tenacity that he knows he’s got No. 1 stuff and almost get a little swagger to him. He is coming into spring training with that little bit of edge, ‘Hey, I belong here. I got the stuff.’ That’s the kind of maturation we need from our young pitchers to go out there and want to take that next step.’’

Wheeler told Kernan exactly what he needs to do to succeed as he gets set to embark on his first full season in the major leagues.

“The biggest thing I learned last year is what it takes to be successful at the big league level. Not having to do too much, just relying on all your stuff, mentally and physically. What I want to do is control my body. Sometimes last year on like a 1-2 count, I wasn’t trying too hard, but my body would just take over. Now in those situations, just think about how you are going to attack it.’’

As Kernan concludes, if Zack Wheeler can grab that No. 1 spot, the Mets will be off and running with those young, power arms attacking and leading the way.

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  • Chris_Pizz

    Wheeler, Niese, Colon…whatever, I’m psyched for baseball!

  • metFAN660

    I love everything about this.

  • Aj

    Love the approach, kick ass

  • Let’s get it going boys! I’m tired of all this snow. Give me some baseball!! Football is done. Knicks are done! Love the next upcoming months!

  • Taskmaster4450

    I love his attitude. This resembles the mindset of Montero from an article yesterday coming into camp with the idea that he is going to take the 5th spot in the rotation out of ST. You have to love the confidence and desire of these young guys. Harvey, Wheeler, and Montero have all shown not only are they talented but they have the outlook to take things to another level. Harvey did that. Let us hope Wheeler and Montero follow suit.

  • Taskmaster4450

    A bit off topic but I just saw this posted by Rubin.

    Seems CY worked with Rod Carew during the off season. Perhaps the motivation of seeking a $50M+ contract might work out for the Mets.


  • Nolrog

    While I really like the fact that he got help from someone (and if you’re going to get help, you mind as well get it from a hall of fame hitter with a life time average of .328.

    If he puts up a year like 2008 or 2010, then he’ll be an asset.

  • Vin

    It’s cool he wants to be the man, but I was really impressed with this:

    “What I want to do is control my body.
    Sometimes last year on like a 1-2 count, I wasn’t trying too hard, but
    my body would just take over. Now in those situations, just think about
    how you are going to attack it.’’

    That’s great. That’s how to become the man, assuming you have the stuff as he does.

  • Vin

    Thanks for posting that. That’s as impressive as the learning Wheeler grasped from last year.

    CY on hitting from that link: “If you focus more on your average, the power will always be there. If
    you’re squaring the ball up more consistently, the power will come. …
    ‘Consistent’ in my eyes is .280 and up. It’s what pops in my head. It
    means you don’t have long slumps, you beat out some grounders and you
    hit all types of balls to all fields to keep yourself out of trouble.”

  • BCleveland3381

    He’s definitely got #1 stuff if he can put it all together. I love that he comes in an wants it. I’ve said you could make an argument for out #1-#4 starters to be the opening day guy. I still say whoever pitches the best in the spring should get the nod.

  • Andrew Herbst

    I love Wheeler’s attitude. It will be a good battle in spring training for the opening day start.

  • Peter S

    Let’s hope Collins doesn’t pull a Mike Pelfrey job on Wheeler.

  • Agee’s Catch

    Being Ike Davis, part deux

  • Agee’s Catch

    My advice to Zack: Get your work in. 1, 2, 3… what difference does it make in the end. You’re going to get 30-32 starts before they shut you down. And if you draw the other teams 3? you’ll rack up quite a few wins. This Glavine guy pitched from the 2 spot and earned his plaque. And Smoltz, the guy pitching behind him, will probably get the nod also. So in the end you’ve nothing to earn. The rotation spot is written in ink. Try to do too much to early and you shorten your season. Just get the work in and the dominoes will fall.

  • BehindTheBag

    Can’t wait to see what he brings this year. I think 14-8, 3.30 ERA, and 8 K’s/9 sounds about right.

  • ThatGuyWhoLeavesComments

    One thing I want to see from Wheeler this season is more efficiency. He threw a ton of pitches and couldn’t ever seem to finish a guy off with a strikeout. If he can get more outs with less pitches, he’ll take a big step forward I think.

  • MLBGM Fire TC

    Now thats good news, hope it pays off for us

  • TexasGusCC

    I understand that we need to write it, but I cannot take anything Collins says with any consideration. Just what he actually does.

  • Justin Anthony

    Whoever pitches the best out of Spring Training should get the Opening Day nod. All of our starters have top of the rotation potential so let them duke it out

  • calamityfrancis

    I think he’s a lock for a k/inning. It’s the walks and efficiency that are what I’m most interested in.

  • RyanF55

    This is all good stuff. You want him to be confident, and you hope all these young pitchers motivate each other to out-due one another. To me it can be Niese, Colon, Wheeler, Gee…they’re all deserving of the opportunity.

  • britton

    how much can you learn in a week and a half ?

  • NewYorkMammoths

    They’re too cheap to do it, but if the Mets were looking to fire Terry, there is a night game in Anahem against the Angels in April . . .

  • TexasGusCC

    I can’t even dream of it. They just signed him. He seems to be well liked, just needs to avoid opening his mouth.

  • Jake Jones

    Not sure what everyone has against Collins. yes he isnt a good speaker BUT he is well liked by the players and coaches. Yes he isnt teh best manager BUT he has had limited talent to work with. Now the mets are starting to produce good yong arms, starting to add some free aganets, and the position plaers in teh system are coming along.

  • Taskmaster4450

    Met fans (and the team) would be elated if your numbers come true.

  • Taskmaster4450

    I tend to think the mindset of Wheeler vs Pelfrey is vastly different.

    Pelfrey was weak upstairs. Wheeler, albeit not as demonstrative as Harvey, seems to have that competitive fire and mental strength that can often take an athlete to the next level.

  • Taskmaster4450

    From what I saw last season, I would rate his stuff as a number 2 at this time. Hopefully he can take it up a level but he lacked the ability to get the big strike when he needed it.

  • Biggle Boy

    Sounds like Zack is channeling some of that Matt Harvey intensity. Great! Just remember, Zack, that you don’t need to throw 98 all the time. That may have been a factor in Matt’s injury. Save it for a put-away pitch.

  • CyYout

    Wheeler, Colon, Gee, Niese, and Mejia to start the year; Syndergaard and Montero to come up before the AS break; Harvey next year. Each of those arms is very capable and any mix will make the Mets competitive.

  • Jack

    With Collins favoring vets over young arms I think he will go with Niese or Colon. Colon did have one of the lowest ERAs last season despite his age (and weight) and maybe by him being our opening day starter that may increase his trade value a bit so we can slot Montero or Syndergaard in the rotation midseason.

  • CyYout

    It could very well be that Gee is the odd man out next year or before that. Harvey, Wheeler, Syndergaard, Niese, and Montero. Not to mention Colon and Mejia. What if they gave him the Opening Day start and helped pump up his value before what seems to me an inevitable trade for a position player?

  • Not4

    Good one NYMammoths

  • Not4

    Not to split hairs (well, actually, exactly to split hairs), but when I think of “stuff” I think of a pitcher’s natural abilities – velocity, movement and ability to break off the off-speed pitches. And based upon that, he is pretty much a No. 1. He still needs a bit of work on his ability to get the big strike at times and his control (which I would say are not really “components” of stuff). Good example is AJ Burnett – his “stuff” is Ace material. But his control and head were just not.

  • Biggle Boy

    Don’t see them trading Gee before the season begins. Maybe by the trading deadline, depending on when Montero gets called up and how he then performs.

  • Edward

    I think most readers here understand that the difference between a 75 & 85-win season lies within the success of both Wheeler and Darnaud. I personally think they will be our 2 biggest stars next year. I don’t know for sure whether or not we’ll grab a wildcard spot, but I’m almost certain we’ll be in it in September.

  • BCleveland3381

    Actually, the entire season he got the big strike, or out exactly when he needed it. Not many guys can walk over 4 per 9 and keep an ERA under 3.50. His WHIP was also very reasonable. His stuff is electric, and with a little better control I think his strike out numbers will get even better. I think there is no doubt he could be a legit #1, and he certainly has better stuff than anyone in the running to be our ace this season.

  • Edward

    Barring injuries, the mets will more than likely be in the race come midseason. It will be a difficult sell to the fanbase if mgnt decided to punt and offload Colon for prospects. If Montero tears it up in Vegas, perhaps we could actually be buyers this year and offload him for an additional piece.

  • Matlack

    The important thing for Wheeler is continuing to trust his stuff. Tactically, I’d kind of rather have him be the 2, if for no other reason than to avoid a NY media controversy next year when Harvey presumably gets the nod. Give the slot to Colon if he pitches well in ST, then Wheeler, then Niese, then Gee, then whoever is the 5 when we need a 5.

  • This is a great turn for Wheeler. I like that he’s such a laid back guy, but to be an ace, you have to ramp us the confidence and trust in not only your stuff, but yourself. Also…if the Mets truly are embracing competition, and leaving spots open for the best guy(s) to win…that is a very good thing.

  • Lotus1209

    Oh yeah… What a horrible controversy.. Having two aces… We’ll be in such a predicament if that ever happened!

  • Endy10

    that’d be fun if wheeler could have a 2013 harvey-esque type season. Or something close at least. Or some growth from last season.

    it’d be fun to watch him pitch opening day too

  • mr mojo risin

    To me this Opening Day starter thing always seems so overblown. I mean, I’m sure its a cool experience, but other than that one day it’s meaningless. I like the fire being shown by Wheeler, but I think the mindset should be about him getting through 30+ starts

  • Matlack

    Sorry for the downvote….fat fingers. Anyway, it doesn’t matter materially who the starter is on Opening Day. Still, I’ll always go for less rather than more when it comes to drama, and the folks who cover the team will turn it into one.

  • BadBadLeroyBrown

    Wheeler had an ok rookie season…Not Great, Not Terrible

    But this kid has to get some control of his pitches…He walked a lot of guys(4.1 BB/9)…

    His stuff wasnt as dynamic as I suspected but I think that was due to a product of him being so wild and that tipping pitches/arm angle thing.

    With that said I hope to see some big improvement from him next year. And for all the Hate I have for this signing and Jokes…hopefully Wheeler takes some tips from Bartolo Colon and throws STRIKES! CONSISTENTLY!

    Everyone says Wheeler has nasty stuff but IMO they are ineffective if you dont attack hitters with strikes consistently. Bring that BB/rate down and bring up the K/rate.

    Oh yeah and Pitch better at Citi Field

    Home: 45.2IP….4.73ERA…..1.48WHIP…..7HR
    Away : 52.1IP…..2.32ERA…..1.25WHIP…..3HR

    So there is hope since Citi Field is a pitchers park, those home numbers have to improve.

    Good luck to him

  • Jake Jones

    I think you are reaching a bit. Warly on wheeler has some struggles which was expected because he was getting used to teh majors. Then he looked pretty damn good and hsi control got better. Wheeler does have nasty stuff even better than Harvey IMO. Wheeler’s only issue is control and like i said that improved as teh season went on

  • Hitmanᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ ✔

    Give em hell, kid! Hope Wheeler & Mejia step up as the #1 & 2 SP this season.

  • metsaholic

    If Wheeler adopts the bulldog and “I’m the man” approach that Harvey has, he will dominate. He was considered to have a higher upside than Harvey. We all should be a lot more excited about seeing him for a full season.

  • metsaholic

    I agree. Behind Harvey, Mejia was the most fun to watch pitch last year. I for one am not one of those who feel he’s some injury prone future bullpen guy. Wheeler and Mejia could be an example of the show we are all in for. A decade of Mets pitching dominance in the NL East.

  • SRT

    I’m with you on these two.
    Have an up vote for this!

  • Dark HelMet

    Niese and Gee do not have TOTR stuff. They’re good, though.

  • metsaholic

    Like I said below, I love Wheelers approach. Confidence and a bit of swagger is expected and seems to be the MO of a staff ace. That being said, he will have to post zeros this spring to have a chance at being the opening day starter. It will either be Niese or Colon. I expect it will be Colon.

  • The kid will be fine this year!! Last year was his first taste of the majors, he needed to get it out of the way. It’s a brand new year!! He has the stuff to be dominant and thats what he’s going to show us this year.
    I have a great feeling about this squad this season, and i’m very skeptical usually. But for some reason, there’s gonna be something special going on in Flushing this summer!!
    Lets gooooooo!!!