In his first interview of spring training, Terry Collins revealed that Zack Wheeler will be competing with Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman for the role of the fifth starter in the Mets rotation. Collins also said Wheeler will see time as a starter and from the bullpen in spring training games.
I feel that this could prove to benefit all three of the pitchers competing. Wheeler, who hasn’t pitched since 2014, would be able to get his competitive spirit back. Providing motivation for these pitchers would allow them to treat each spring training game as if it were a regular season game.
Regardless of who ends up getting the role of the 5th starter, the other two pitchers could help to add more depth to the Mets bullpen, while also providing spot starts every now and then.
By making the starting role open, Collins will be able to get a better look at Lugo and Gsellman, as well as to see how sharp Wheeler looks after not pitching in a major league game in two years. Lugo and Gsellman need to prove that last season was no fluke for them. If they pitch as well this spring training as they did for the Mets last season, and Wheeler shows little to no signs of rust, Collins would face a very good problem to have as a manager. He would have 7 strong young starting pitchers to fill in 5 spots. Many managers would kill to be in that kind of position.
Wheeler has made it no secret that he wants to be in the starting rotation come opening day. “I know I belong in the starting rotation, there’s no question about that. I’m a starter. I want to be a starter,” Wheeler said last week. Wheeler also voiced his concerns about being in the bullpen. “I feel that guys that go to the bullpen get stuck in the bullpen, and I don’t want to do that. Because either you are doing bad and stay in the bullpen because you can’t be a starter, or you are doing really good and they can’t afford to move you out of the bullpen. So you are going to get stuck there, and that’s why I’m trying to let everybody know that I’m not a bullpen guy, I’m a starter,” said Wheeler.
For Wheeler, spring training will be his first test to see if he can return to the pitcher he was in the second half of 2014. For Lugo and Gsellman, they are trying to prove to the Mets, as well as the rest of the league, that they can be just as good as the rest of the Mets starting rotation. It should be exciting to watch these three pitch this spring.