By Ed Coleman
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Zack Wheeler never made it to the mound to make his start on Wednesday.

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But Rafael Montero did on Thursday night in Viera, as the Mets continue to roll out young, hard-throwing pitchers with great promise.

Montero is a 22-year-old Dominican right-hander who caught everyone’s attention with his ability to throw strikes last season.  He went a combined 11-5 for Savannah and St. Lucie in Single-A last year. He only issued 19 walks in 122 innings of work.  He also struck out 110 batters and compiled a 2.36 ERA.  Montero has a good sinking fastball, a slider and a pretty good changeup.  He didn’t “wow” anybody on Thursday against the Nationals, but he pitched a solid two innings against an “A” lineup, allowing three hits and a run while throwing 41 pitches — 24 for strikes.  Manager Terry Collins was duly impressed after seeing Montero in game action for the first time.

Montero is not the only young arm drawing raves.  Cory Mazzoni, the Mets’ second-round pick in 2011 out of North Carolina State, has started camp with five scoreless innings while allowing just one hit, no walks and three strikeouts.  So how has he done what he’s doing?

Mazzoni came on in relief of Jenrry Mejia on Tuesday in Jupiter after Mejia was rocked by the Marlins in his one inning of work, and retired all nine batters that he faced, many of them with a split-change that is very effective for him.

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And there are others too, like Gonzalez Germen, who has a great changeup, as well as Michael Fulmer and Hansel Robles.  As for Wheeler, yes, he’s OK after tweaking his right oblique muscle while hitting in the cage on Wednesday.  Collins said he should be good to go, possibly towards the end of next week.

Thursday night in Viera, the Mets and Nationals tied, 4-4, in 10 innings.  Jeremy Hefner finished up with 2 1/3 scoreless innings and looked good, as did situational lefty Scott Rice, who still hasn’t allowed a run over three innings.

Offensively, Jordany Valdespin continues with his hot bat. He had two more hits while playing second base, is now 5-for-11, and will start to see some time in the outfield when Daniel Murphy returns.  Collin Cowgill has been impressive, too. He went 2-for-4 and is now hitting .545 on the spring with two walks and two stolen bases.  Young catcher Travis d”Arnaud went 2-for-3 and is hitting.444. He’s also handling catching duties very well.  Omar Quintanilla (.429) had an RBI double.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis needs to get it going. He’s now 1-for-13 with six strikeouts after an 0-for-3 with 2 more strikeouts.

C U soon
Eddie C.

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Have you watched Montero and/or Mazzoni pitch this spring? What do you think of their stuff? Let us know in the comments section below…