CHICAGO — The first one you remember the details. Matt Harvey smiled last week when asked about his major-league debut, remembering the feeling of taking the field and the excitement as he shut down the Diamondbacks over five innings and struck out 11 with his family in the stands. It’s a night you will remember the rest of your life, he said.
The second one? Not so much.
“Nothing,” Harvey said when asked what he remembered about his second major-league start. It was simply time to get to work.
Tuesday, that is what Zack Wheeler will do when the righthanded phenom makes his second major-league start in Chicago against the White Sox.
“It’s just like any other start, it’s not a big deal,” the 23-year old said Sunday.
Comparatively, yes, maybe it will be just another start to the laid-back Wheeler.
The hyperbole of “Super Tuesday” last week in Atlanta, with Harvey taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning in the afternoon, and the long-awaited arrival of Wheeler at night, will calm to just a frenzy with his second start. He made his debut less than an hour from his hometown of Dallas, Ga., with his parents sitting behind home plate and Braves legend Chipper Jones sitting with them.
This time, there will be less going on around Wheeler and the real work can begin. While Wheeler debuted by throwing six scoreless innings against the NL East-leading Braves, there was room for improvement. He walked five and needed 102 pitches in those six innings.
“Much of the same, I hope a little better command of his offspeed stuff,” Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen said of what he expected to see in Wheeler’s second start. “I hope a higher strike percentage. With all the excitement and adrenaline flow (of the first start), I think at times he overthrew. I don’t think he will overthrow as much.”
Wheeler said his goal for Tuesday was “throwing strikes, I walked a lot of people last time.”
While Wheeler may have over-thrown some and not had precise command in his debut, he impressed his teammates and coaches, who were looking for other things. They expected his ability to light up a radar gun, but they saw a lot more in the rookie.
“He’s got great stuff, a great arm, and he is a smart kid,” said John Buck, who will catch Wheeler’s second start. “I am looking forward to working with him.”
Terry Collins let Wheeler work his way out of a sticky sixth after giving up a one-out single to B.J. Upton and then a walk to Brian McCann. The Mets manager wanted to see how the rookie would react. He struck out Dan Uggla, who’d doubled off him in the second, and then coaxed a pop-up from Chris Johnson. That impressed Buck and Warthen.
“He’s tough,” Warthen said. “He’s tough. He has a quiet confidence.”
Warthen and Wheeler will begin really working together Tuesday. Wheeler was used last week as part of the taxi squad, a 26th man allowed on the roster for a scheduled doubleheader. This week, before his start, he will be officially added to the roster. To not carry an extra starter, the Mets optioned him back to Triple-A. In Tucson, he threw a regular bullpen session and a lighter one to accommodate the two extra days of rest with Triple-A pitching coach Randy St. Claire.
He flew to Chicago Sunday night to rejoin the Mets.
Wheeler said he didn’t have much contact with any Mets during the week he was back in Triple-A. He was not overwhelmed by the fact he was coming up to the majors most likely for good this time.
“It’s just another team and just another level,” Wheeler said. “Obviously it’s a little bit bigger stage, but I am ready to do my job and hopefully help my team.”