With Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom widely regarded as two of the best starters in baseball, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz turning heads with their potential, and the cult of personality surrounding Bartolo Colon, it's easy to forget about Zack Wheeler.
Still months away from returning from the Tommy John surgery that sidelined him for all of 2015, the 25-year-old right-hander knows he's become something of an afterthought whenever people discuss the New York Mets rotation. That's OK, though, he said. It motivates him.
"I have Twitter, TV, so I do see everything," Wheeler told Mike Puma of the New York Post earlier this week. "I'm not one of those guys who gets jealous. I couldn't care less about what people say or think about me, but at the same time it motivates me, have a little chip on my shoulder, which is fine."
It wasn't long ago, after all, that Wheeler was just as integral to the Mets' future as Syndergaard or Matz. Selected with the sixth pick in the 2009 draft, Wheeler shined upon joining the Mets in June 2013 and became a pivotal part of their rotation the following year, when he fashioned a 3.54 ERA (97 ERA+) with a 23.6 percent strikeout rate over 32 starts. The hope, he said, is the stuff he showed in 2014 returns with a reconstructed ulnar collateral ligament.
"I know my potential," said Wheeler. "I'm just hoping this thing comes back like it is supposed to and I can perform and be healthy this year."
Though Wheeler has relished being around his teammates this spring - both deGrom and Matz also had Tommy John surgery performed by Dr. David Altchek - he'll have to part ways with his pals in a couple weeks to continue his rehab with the hopes of returning July 1.
"But that means it’s getting closer for me," Wheeler said. "I've been thinking about it a lot more as it's getting closer. In three months I'l probably pitch in (minor-league) games and in four months I'll be hopefully back up there, so it's coming up quick."