It's days like these that get moribund franchises like the New York Mets through long seasons like the ones they're in.
Zack Wheeler Day has arrived for Mets fans, and it happens to coincide with the once-every-five-days holiday that revolves around Matt Harvey's turn in the rotation to form a potentially franchise-altering double-header on Tuesday that, at the very least, should put the Mets on the back pages for the first time in a while.
Wheeler, like so many high school pitchers who make it through the minor league maze, has had quite a journey to the majors. Two teams, a number of injuries, and dominant stretches have turned the former Gerogia high schooler into the future of the Mets, and he'll return to his home town to face the Braves in his major league debut.
We've covered Wheeler from the start of his professional career, so here are some of the highlights of our coverage of Wheeler's journey to the majors, especially from the last year:
- The story on Wheeler really got started when he was traded to the Mets at the 2011 trade deadline, straight up for Carlos Beltran, who had only two months remaining on his contract. Wheeler had been limited by the Giants, both by the organization and by some minor injuries, but the talented that had gotten him selected 6th overall just two years prior was very much still there. Even at the time, it seemed like a steep price for Beltran, but it would have been worth it for the Giants had they won a World Series. Ironically, it was the only title in the past three years they did not win.
- After being assigned to Double-A to begin the 2012 season and pitching well, Wheeler was promoted to Triple-A last August. It got the hopes up of many Mets fans who wanted to see Wheeler make a cameo last fall, especially after Matt Harvey had already joined the team, but the Mets showed the proper patience and Mets fans are going to be rewarded with a more finished product.
- Wheeler's strong 2012 season, coupled with a poor Mets rotation in the majors, led to the inevitable speculation that Wheeler could make the Mets rotation this spring. In the end, Wheeler was sent to Triple-A and the Mets made little effort to hide the role that the Super-2 status played in the decision.
- Still, Wheeler had an awesome spring, and that didn't stop some people from making ridiculous comparisons, like this one comparing Wheeler to Stephen Strasburg. Wheeler is very good, but he's a different style of pitcher than Strasburg. It's an example of people getting carried away during spring training.
- As the Mets season begin to go downhill in May, the calls for Wheeler got louder. Wheeler responded with a few strong starts in Triple-A, leading some to believe that the Mets might change their original plans based on a few good outings by Wheeler. Wisely, they did not.
- Less than a week later, Wheeler had an injury scare that sent panic into the hearts of Mets fans. It turned out to be minor and was fixed with a simple shot, but it's worth keeping an eye on how the Mets use him, given that the issue was with his shoulder.
Which brings us to the present. Wheeler has been healthy and is ready for major league competition. He should get the same kind of treatment from the Mets that Matt Harvey got last year in preparation for hitting the ground running in 2014. And if he's half as good as Harvey, the Mets will have the makings of a very good pitching staff for their future.