METS YOUTH REVIVAL

Wheeler & Gee give Harvey some company, Travis d’Arnaud latest prospect to debut

BY JOE RINI
PHOTOS BY LAUREN KATE ROSENBLUM

THISdylan_1Yes Virginia, there really is a Mets starting rotation in addition to Matt Harvey. While the early season success by Harvey combined with the struggles of the rest of the rotation had fans wincing as they counted the days to his next start, the recent performance of Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee has helped the Mets avert the collapse of 2012, stabilized 2013, and given hope for 2014 and beyond.

Since being called up from Triple-A Las Vegas on June 17, the 23-year old Wheeler has pitched to a 6-3 record and the Mets have won 8 of his 9 starts since July 1. While Wheeler struggled with his command in his early starts, he allowed only one run in striking out 12 Padres in a 4-1 Mets victory on August 15 and joined Nolan Ryan and Pedro Martinez as the only two Mets pitchers to strike out 12 batters in six innings of work.

Dillon Gee, whose 2012 season was cut short with a 6-7 record in July when he needed season-ending surgery due to a blood clot in his shoulder, tied Harvey for the team lead in wins with nine this past Monday when he allowed only one unearned run in 7 2/3 innings in a 6-1 Mets victory over Minnesota. Gee, who was originally called up by the Mets in 2010 and won 13 games in 2011, has a 7-2 record over his past 15 starts and his 2.27 ERA since May 30 is the third best in the National League over that time period.

Complimenting his teammates after Monday’s game, Gee said, “It helps to have the help that I’ve had. I’ve had great catchers calling great games, and Juan (Lagares) tracks down everything there in center field…it gives you confidence to keep attacking.”

Though the Mets enter play on Wednesday eight games under .500 at 58-66, their record is a very respectable 33-26 since the day of Wheeler’s debut on June 17. Also, though the team is a modest 17-16 since the All-Star break, it’s been accomplished amidst injuries to David Wright and closer Bobby Parnell, and it’s vast improvement over last season’s 10-23 debacle over the same stretch of games.

Speaking of David Wright and his injured hamstring, the All-Star third baseman said on Tuesday that he hoped to be back on the field before the end of the season, stating. “I think also it kind of helps you confidence-wise going into spring training knowing that you finished the year healthy. So no question I think it’s important. Confidence-wise, mentally, obviously physically, to get back out there and finish as strong as I can.”THISdylan_2

Catcher Travis d’Arnaud, the centerpiece of the R.A. Dickey trade this past off-season, made his major league debut this past Saturday against the Padres. Initially called up to replace John Buck while Buck was on three-day paternity following the birth of his son, the Mets elected to keep d’Arnaud with the big club and he will share catching duties with Buck down the stretch of the season. Speaking of d’Arnaud, who doubled for his first career hit on Tuesday, manager Terry Collins said, “The only way this guy is going to improve is to be here and work with John Buck…but you’re only going to be able to tell if he’s going to be an everyday guy by getting him out there.”

The Mets began a 10-game homestand on Tuesday, which includes a three game series this weekend against Jim Leyland’s Detroit Tigers, highlighted by Saturday’s expected match-up of Matt Harvey vs. the 18-1 Matt Scherzer.