PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Zack Wheeler, of all people, understands what Noah Syndergaard is going through this spring as a top prospect in big league camp. Like Matt Harvey before him, Wheeler was once in the same situation as Syndergaard, with fans and media dissecting his every move.
Wheeler likes things better the way they are now. A day after Syndergaard drew scouts and columnists from all over Florida to watch him pitch, Wheeler enjoyed an afternoon of relative quiet back at Mets camp. Perhaps he shouldn't have, considering the strength of his performance against the Astros: three scoreless innings in just 40 pitches. But at Tradition Field, the tone was nonetheless mellower.
"It definitely is more calmed down," Wheeler said, comparing this year's camp to last year. "It's just a little bit more relaxed knowing everybody, and knowing what I have to do, so I'm not always head-on-a-swivel and rushed and all kinds of stuff like that. I'm just more relaxed and focused."
Already this spring, Wheeler has approached Syndergaard to offer any advice he might need. If the rookie needs more specific guidance going forward, Wheeler said, he will be happy to help.
As for Wheeler personally, the stress-free nature of this year's camp has allowed him to focus on fine-tuning his game. Tops on the agenda is working more economically in outings, a goal that starts with better control of his arsenal.
If Thursday's average of 13.3 pitches per inning was any indication, Wheeler is certainly on the right track.
"I just tried to attack guys, get ahead of them," Wheeler said. "That's my plan going into this season -- keeping the pitch count down, getting ahead of guys so I can go a little deeper into games. Getting them in three pitches or less, that's sort of what they brought us up on in the Minor Leagues. Three pitches or less, that was one of our stats on the chart. That's always been in my head. It's definitely time to put that in place."
In Mets' camp, MLBPA discusses Drew situation
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Major League Baseball's Players' Association is not happy with the Draft compensation rules affecting shortstop Stephen Drew's perpetual free agency.
"It's very much a concern," union chief Tony Clark said Tuesday, after an annual meeting with Mets players at Tradition Field. "Any time you have players on the free-agent market who are still sitting at home come March 3 or 4 or whatever day it is, that I think everyone would agree can have a positive impact on any club they would happen to play on, it is a concern. It is a topic that we pay a lot of attention to, because we don't think it's in anyone's interest to have some of the top players in the game sitting at home and not playing on the field."
Because Drew declined a $14.1-million qualifying offer from the Red Sox in November, any team that signs him before June must forfeit a Draft pick to do so. That was not a major factor in the Mets' decision to pass on Drew, considering their first-round pick was protected as one of the league's 10 best, and their second-round selection already went to the Yankees as compensation for signing Curtis Granderson. But the union does believe the rule has scared off other potential suitors.
Mets officials, conversely, have indicated that they passed on Drew largely because they do not consider his price tag -- likely $10 million or more per season -- worth the upgrade over incumbent shortstop Ruben Tejada. To that end, Clark said he always keeps an eye on the Mets' spending habits, considering their sub-$90 million payroll is significantly less than those of major-market rivals such as the Yankees, Red Sox and Dodgers.
"Suffice it to say, whether it's New York or any other team, obviously one of our responsibilities as a union is making sure that we protect the interests of the players, and obviously support the interests and the advancement of the game in general," Clark said, noting that the union is not aware of any bank-imposed restrictions on the Mets' payroll. "So any time there are concerns or issues with any club related to certain habits or trends, we pay attention to them."
Mets following Wright's lead on new 'do
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Mets, it seems, are going with the "flow."
Weeks after David Wright reported to Mets camp sporting a new haircut -- shaved on the sides, long and wavy on top -- with what he boasted as "good flow," several teammates have taken to copying his style. First it was Wilmer Flores, who reported to camp sporting a similar 'do.
Tuesday morning, Travis d'Arnaud, Matt Harvey, Josh Satin and Eric Young Jr. all went to the barbershop for an identical haircut. That group is already pestering Daniel Murphy, Curtis Granderson and others to hop on their oddly-coiffed bandwagon.
"I had just gotten mine cut, or I would have jumped in there, too," Granderson said. "We'll see. Mom and Dad are here today. They might not approve."
• Harvey threw on back-to-back days Monday and Tuesday for the first time since undergoing surgery in October. Harvey and fellow Tommy John patient Jeremy Hefner have increased their throwing frequency to four days a week from 60 feet off flat ground. While Hefner hopes to pitch in the Majors by late August or early September, Harvey is unlikely to return before Opening Day 2015.
• SNY announced Tuesday that Gary Apple will replace Chris Carlin as host of its Mets pre- and postgame shows, alongside analyst Bob Ojeda. Carlin will take over Apple's old job as anchor of GEICO SportsNite. Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling will be back for a ninth season as the Mets' broadcast team, though sideline reporter Kevin Burkhardt will regularly miss games to fulfill his new duties as host of FOX's baseball pregame show.