The New York Mets will get another look Monday at Zack Wheeler, a one-time rotation mainstay whom they made no attempt to re-sign before he signed as a free agent with the division rival Philadelphia Phillies in the most recent offseason.
But the Mets might also begin finding out in earnest if David Peterson can help replace Wheeler.
The Mets will look to lock up a series win Monday when they host the Phillies in the finale of a four-game set. The left-handed Peterson (4-1, 3.03 ERA) is scheduled to return to the rotation after a brief stint in the bullpen when he opposes the right-handed Wheeler (4-0, 2.20).
The Mets earned their second straight win Sunday afternoon as Pete Alonso hit two home runs and ace Jacob deGrom struck out 12 over seven dominant innings in a 14-1 victory.
New York (19-22), which enters Monday 1 1/2 games behind the Colorado Rockies in the race for the National League’s final playoff spot, set season highs for runs, hits (17) and homers (five) in the win. The Mets are 2 1/2 games behind the second-place Phillies (19-17) in the NL East.
Peterson spent the first three weeks of the season looking as if he might be establishing himself as the reliable No. 2 starter the Mets have lacked since Wheeler departed. The rookie, who turned 25 on Thursday, posted a 2.91 ERA in four starts before missing two weeks because of left-shoulder fatigue.
After giving up three runs over four innings against the Yankees on Aug. 28, Peterson was sent to the bullpen. He made his first professional relief appearance last Wednesday, when he recorded the victory after allowing two hits over four scoreless innings as the Mets beat the Baltimore Orioles 9-4.
Now Peterson (who has never faced the Phillies) returns to the rotation — Robert Gsellman has been sent back to the bullpen — and will presumably get the rest of the season to prove he’s a building block for the Mets. The remainder of the rotation behind deGrom includes Seth Lugo, who is transitioning back to starting, and impending free agents Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha.
“Peterson’s a guy that’s thrown the ball really well for us, so he’s going to be out there and he’s going to be competing real well,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said last Wednesday. “He’s going to put us in a good position to win games.”
Wheeler did that the previous two seasons for the Mets, who went 31-29 in his 60 starts, a span in which Wheeler posted a 3.65 ERA while striking out 374 batters over 377 2/3 innings.
But the Mets never made Wheeler an offer when he hit free agency, and he and Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen traded barbs in February.
After Wheeler, who signed a five-year deal worth $118 million, said he wasn’t surprised New York didn’t try to re-sign him because “… (that’s) how they roll,” Van Wagenen said he was disappointed because the Mets “helped him parlay two good half-seasons over the last five into $118 million.”
Wheeler, who missed the 2015 and ’16 seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery, has gotten the last word thus far. He entered Sunday ranked among the NL’s top 10 in wins (four), ERA (2.20) and innings pitched (45) and earned the victory in his first appearance against the Mets on Aug. 16, when he allowed two runs on six hits over seven innings in the Phillies’ 6-2 win.
“I’m not trying to prove anybody wrong,” Wheeler told reporters after that game. “Just go out there and just pitch my game and just try to get a win for us. “But yeah, you’re facing your old team, you want to go out there and do well. There’s no way around it. It’s nothing personal against those guys. I enjoyed my time over there, made a lot of good friends. It was just fun competing against them.”
–Field Level Media