Now that he’s about to make his highly anticipated debut with the New York Mets, Zack Wheeler will rely on some advice he got from a minor league coach.
Don’t look up.
“I know it’s going to be a big moment in my life,” Wheeler said Monday, the day before he takes the mound against the first-place Atlanta Braves. “There’s probably going to be some nerves.”
The 23-year-old right-hander is one of baseball’s top pitching prospects and a reason for hope in what is turning out to be another dismal season for the Mets. Heightening the anticipation, he’ll be making his first start in the big leagues not far from where he grew up in the northwest Atlanta suburbs, meaning plenty of family and friends will be in the stands at Turner Field.
Wheeler said he’ll try to follow a tip he got a couple of years ago from his pitching coach in Class A, former big leaguer Steve Kline, who said all the sights and sounds of a big league park can be a bit overwhelming the first time out.
“He said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t look up,’ ” Wheeler said. “I think he threw up off the back of the mound his first game. I’ll always remember that advice.”
The youngster will be joining a rotation that already includes 24-year-old Matt Harvey, who is having a brilliant rookie season (5-1, 2.04 ERA, 102 strikeouts in 97 innings) and, in an interesting twist, will pitch the opener of a day-night doubleheader before Wheeler goes in the second game.
For the Mets, it’s a chance to show their frustrated fans what they hope will be the centerpieces of a brighter future.
Clearing the bases
Slumping Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira could be heading back to the disabled list. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman says he’s leaning toward putting Teixeira on the DL. Cashman spoke on a conference call Monday, an off-day for New York. Teixeira, 33, missed the first 53 games of the season because of an injured right wrist. The All-Star slugger is hitting just .151 with three home runs and 12 RBIs in 53 at-bats. … The Detroit Tigers have placed right-hander Anibal Sanchez and catcher Alex Avila on the 15-day disabled list. Detroit recalled outfielder Avisail Garcia and catcher Bryan Holaday from Triple-A Toledo.