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Mets’ Wheeler On Friday’s Return: ‘Everything’s Going Good’

Fighting For A Bigger Role Among Young, Star Arms, Veteran Right-Hander Happy With His Curveball And Slider

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Zack Wheeler is excited about his exhibition start Friday against Houston, his first time pitching in a game for the New York Mets in two years.

“I’m kind of nervous about, like, in the stretch with a guy on first base, like balking and stuff. You feel like you haven’t played a game in 10 years,” Wheeler said.

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Wheeler injured his elbow pitching against Miami in a spring training game on March 9, 2015, and had surgery 16 days later to repair a torn right ulnar collateral ligament. He returned last summer and threw 17 pitches over one inning in a rain-shortened start on Aug. 6 for Class A St. Lucie, then complained of elbow discomfort and didn’t pitch again.

“I mean, from what guys are telling me and what people said, the ball’s coming out good. I felt happy with it,” Wheeler said after throwing a bullpen session Sunday. “I guess I’m excited. It’s just another step forward. I’m feeling better every time I go out there. Hopefully, it translates over to the game and we’ll go from there.”

Wheeler said his curveballs and sliders felt sharper.

“I kind of feel like I’m waiting for a setback, but everything’s going good. It definitely felt better than last time,” he said.

Wheeler is among the Mets’ heralded young starters along with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz. Now 26, Wheeler was acquired from San Francisco in the 2011 trade that sent Carlos Beltran to the Giants.

Wheeler is 18-16 record with a 3.50 E.R.A. in 49 Mets starts.

“I wouldn’t say I’m 100 percent letting it go, but I’m 90-95 percent,” he said. “I’m breaking off curveballs and sliders. I’m just making sure I’m good before I take that next step.”

NOTES: Matz, who had elbow surgery in October, made his spring training debut against the Miami Marlins in Jupiter by throwing 39 pitches in two scoreless innings. He allowed three hits and struck out one, with his fastball at 91-93 mph. … Travis d’Arnaud and L.J. Mazzilli homered for the Mets in an 8-2 win over Miami. … RHP Matt Harvey had a stiff neck on Sunday when he made his first spring training appearance. “I really just wanted to stay on task. It’s getting better,” said Harvey, who is getting treatment for his beck. He’s scheduled to pitch again on Friday in a split-squad game.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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