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MLB.com Columnist

Marty Noble

Wheeler's debut can be new beginning for Mets

Wheeler's debut can be new beginning for Mets

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Wheeler's debut can be new beginning for Mets

MLB.com Columnist

Marty Noble

It's breakfast or brunch and then a double helping of Braves for the Mets on Tuesday in Atlanta. And whether it's eggs, pancakes or grits, sunny side up is the order of the day for the visiting team. This is a good day to be a Met even though the dateline is Dixie. So many Mets seasons have been ended in the south -- some as scheduled, others by result. On Tuesday, Ted Turner's town can be a beginning for the Mets, a change of pace that would delight even Greg Maddux.

It is to be a day of possibilities and potent potential for the Mets, a day that is all about pitching and promise and the prospect of a brighter future in Flushing and the Big Citi. It's the first day of Zack Wheeler's career and the first day of the rest of Matt Harvey's. So ...

Keep your sunny side up, up
Hide the side that gets blue
When their team is knocking you flat,
Smile and say 'we're better than that'

You got keep your sunny side up, up
Let your laughter shine through,
Do stand upon your legs
Be like two fried eggs, keep your sunny side up

Keep your sunny side up, up
Hide the side that gets blue
If you have nine sons in a row
Baseball teams make money, you know

-- Ray Henderson, 1929

It will be a day that Terry Collins appreciates like few others in his two-plus seasons as manager of the Mets. His resume in the game is strong with experience in player development. Collins can manage a baseball team, he can do as much as any man to teach the game and keep a team on track, even a team with so little functional talent and gumption as the Mets have shown in 2013. But his forte in the game he embraces is development. And Tuesday is a significant day in the Mets' development.

"A day I've been thinking about for three weeks," Collins said early Monday afternoon from the visiting manager's office at Turner Field.

He's known of Wheeler's probable promotion for that long and about the likely same-day pairing of Wheeler, the organization's No. 2 prospect, and Harvey since the most recent of the Mets' six postponements. He is a 64-year-old man with ample gray hair who is as excited about Tuesday's possibilities as Wheeler is buzzed about his debut. A difference is Collins hasn't tweeted his feelings. He merely expressed them Monday: "I'm very happy I'm part of this thing we're trying to do."

This "thing" is properly identified as a renaissance of a team that has produced four losing seasons since the second of two final-game eliminations and, to date this season, substantial disappointment. If not for Kirk Nieuwenhuis' stroke (of genius or luck) Sunday afternoon, the Mets would have arrived in Atlanta with losses in their eight most recent games against last-place competition and losses in nine of their last 11 games against all teams.

Keeping the sunny side up is a difficult exercise when a team has been down for so long that down closely resembles up.

Collins had expected much more from this group -- more from Ike Davis, of course, but more, too, from Ruben Tejada, Jon Niese and Dillon Gee. Collins had the right to expect more from each, given performances of the recent past. The team has played abysmally since it swept the Yankees from May 27-30. The Mets' fourth-place performance has been a team effort.

And now, another reversal -- one less dramatic but with longer-lasting impact than the four intracity games -- has moved into the prescient portion of the manager's brain and prompted him to accentuate the positive. Collins has high hopes for today. And tomorrow.

"I'm hoping this is the start of something very good," Collins said. "Matt Harvey backed up by Zack Wheeler. It could be a special day. Matt has to be just what he's been almost every time out. And Zack doesn't have to pitch a shutout, just make a good showing. And it could be the beginning of something special for us.

"I'm here. I'm pleased that I can have a hand in this now that there's some serious light at the end of the tunnel."

Niese and Gee have pitched effectively -- though without much good fortune -- of late. More Harvey and some effective work by Wheeler would go a long way toward changing the atmosphere in the clubhouse and dugout and the direction of the season. The Mets could recreate what developed during the home-and-home series against the Yankees.

Young, quality pitchers can do that. See 1984 and Dwight Gooden and Ron Darling joining hands with Darryl Strawberry and Davey Johnson, Keith Hernandez and Mookie Wilson. Whatever good occurs always begins with pitching.

Johnson was given the reins in 1984. Collins has been in that position since the beginning of 2011. And, like Johnson in '83, he was in position in '10, to learn the organization. The Sandy Alderson administration has learned to trust Collins. And that trust is a powerful compliment. Speculation that the manager's job security has waned -- speculation that has developed in the absence of bona fide evidence -- has ignored how the club trusts Collins with the young pitchers.

The manager likens his experiences with Harvey and, beginning Tuesday, with Wheeler to those he had with the Angels in the late 1990s when slugger Troy Glaus had reached the point in his career that the two young Mets pitching prospects have reached this year. "So exciting to see him come on like he did," Collins said. "His skills excited everyone.

"It can make it more fun to the come to the park, and right now, we need some of that."

For now, what Collins needs is a good day for the Mets, something that excites them as Nieuwenhuis' home run did.

Mixed Beginnings
Highly regarded pitching prospects who made their big league debuts with the Mets have had varying degrees of success in first starts. Of the 19 included here, only Dwight Gooden, Bobby Jones, Mike Pelfrey, Dillon Gee and Matt Harvey won their first starts. Five others lost, and Grant Roberts avoided a loss despite allowing seven runs in 1 1/3 innings.
Pitcher Date Opponent Site IP H R-ER BB SO Outcome
Nolan Ryan* 9-18-66 Astros Hou. 1 4 4-4 2 3 Lost
Tom Seaver 4-13-67 Pirates Shea 5 1/3 6 2-2 4 8 ND/ Mets won
Jerry Koosman* 9-17-67 Astros Hou. 7 6 2-2 5 2 ND/ Mets lost
Jon Matlack** 7-11-71 Reds Cin. 7 6 2-2 0 1 ND/ Mets lost
Tim Leary 4-12-81 Cubs Chi. 2 0 0-0 1 3 ND/Mets won
Ron Darling 9-06-83 Phillies Shea 6 1/3 5 1-1 1 6 Lost
Dwight Gooden 4-07-84 Astros Hou. 5 3 1-1 2 5 Won
Rick Aguilera* 6-16-85 Expos Mon. 4 1/3 6 6-6 5 1 Lost
Bobby Jones 8-14-93 Phillies Phi. 6 7 5-1 1 3 Won
Bill Pulsipher 6-17-95 Astros Shea 7 9 7-7 6 3 Lost
Jason Isringhausen 7-17-95 Cubs Chi. 7 2 2-2 2 6 ND/ Mets won
Paul Wilson 4-04-96 Cardinals Shea 6 6 3-3 2 6 ND/ Mets won
Octavio Dotel 6-26-99 Braves Atl. 4 1/3 5 6-6 5 3 Lost
Grant Roberts 7-27-00 Expos Shea 1 1/3 6 7-6 3 0 ND/ Mets won
Alay Soler 5-24-06 Phillies Shea 6 5 3-2 4 5 ND/ Mets won
Mike Pelfrey 7-08-06 Marlins Shea 5 3 3-2 4 3 Won
Dillon Gee 9-10-07 Nationals Was. 7 2 1-1 3 4 Won
Jonathon Niese 9-2-08 Brewers Mil. 3 7 5-5 4 2 ND/Mets lost
Matt Harvey 7-12-12 D-backs Ari. 5 1/3 3 0-0 3 11 Won
* Had pitched in relief previously
** Seaver lost the game in relief

Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["prospect" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ] }
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