With the rain having curtailed the workout of the Mets’ pitchers Thursday, it seemed as good a time as any to pay a visit to “phenoms corner” in the back of the clubhouse, where Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler locker right next to each other, just to the right of Johan Santana.
It is by no means an accident that the two wunderkind righties are paired side-by-side here. Rather, it is by Terry Collins’ design. “I want Zack to lean on Matt for his experience in his first big league camp,” the manager said. “I want Matt to be the guy he turns to as someone who’s been there. Everything Matt went through last year in his first big league camp, and what happened after he didn’t make the team, well let’s just say I think he can have a great influence on Zack.”
Wheeler, 22, acclaimed by many as the top overall pitching prospect in the minor leagues, has come to camp with the same determined and defiant attitude as Harvey did a year ago — which is to say he seems determined to defy the Mets’ “no pitcher before his time” philosophy (the team wants him to him start the season at Triple-A in order to get him more seasoning). Like Harvey last spring, Wheeler thinks he’s ready right now.

“My mind-set,” the kid said, “is to make it tough on them this spring. I’m here to compete for a job in the rotation, this rotation. I spent last year (combined 12-6, 3.26 ERA, 148 Ks in 149 innings at AA Binghamton and AAA Buffalo) working on my off-speed stuff, which allowed me to pitch deeper into games and become more of a complete pitcher.”
If you didn’t know better, it would almost seem as if Harvey had given him a copy of his own quotes a year ago and told him to memorize them. In Harvey’s case, he had come to camp after a strong season at Single-A and Double-A in 2011 and, in his opinion, had nothing else to prove in the minors. At 23, he believed his time was at hand. But the spring didn’t go quite as he’d planned. He pitched okay, save for one disastrous rocky outing against the Nationals in Viera where a stiff wind was blowing out and, along with it, three Washington home runs in his one inning of work. But he didn’t dazzle, at least not enough to prompt the Mets hierarchy to change their plans for starting him out at Buffalo again.


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