MIAMI -- Part of the reason why the Mets are waiting until after the Super 2 cutoff to call up Zack Wheeler is that they want his promotion to be for good. That strategy paid off last year with Matt Harvey, who did not arrive in Flushing until he was truly ready. The Mets hope it will be the same way with Wheeler.
So although the Mets may have been tempted to promote their top pitching prospect for Saturday's spot start in Miami, they called upon Collin McHugh instead. The reason? They did not want to have to send Wheeler back to the Minors after a successful start, a poor start, or anything in between.
In Terry Collins' words, "When Zack comes, we hope he stays here for the rest of his time.
"Had Zack Wheeler been selected to make this one start and he came up and pitched a one-hitter, he'd have been back the next day," the manager said. "That would have led you guys [the media] to jump off a cliff."
And so the Mets continue to point quietly to mid-June for Wheeler's debut, potentially during the Atlanta series that begins June 17. It is a wait that will be easier to stomach if the team's current starters continue pitching as they have been, entering Friday's play with 47 strikeouts and one walk over their last six games.
Collins hinted that Wheeler's impending arrival may have played a role in that success.
"We know that some place along the line here, at some time, Zack Wheeler's on his way," Collins said. "Whose job is he going to take? We don't know yet. But hopefully it's a dogfight."
Collins reflects on anniversary of Johan's no-no
MIAMI -- Sitting in the dugout, watching Johan Santana throw pitch after thrilling pitch, pitch after dangerous pitch, Mets manager Terry Collins felt physically ill. It was June 1, 2012, one of the most significant nights in franchise history, and Collins was unable to enjoy it.
"I was ill," Collins recalled. "Sicker than [anything]. Sick to my stomach."
One year has passed since that night, which in retrospect may have been the final apex of his career. Though Santana still hopes to pitch again, he underwent a second operation to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder in March, potentially ending his time in professional baseball.
Collins could not have envisioned such fallout at the time. No one could. Though he and others fretted over Santana's rapidly rising pitch count in his 11th start back from surgery, they also knew, in pitching coach Dan Warthen's words, that "there was no chance we would be able to take him out of the game, so it didn't matter."
"I was excited the whole time, and I was never overly concerned about the pitch count," Warthen said. "I still don't think that was the thing that ended his career by any means."
No one will ever know for sure whether the 134 pitches Santana threw that night played a small role, a significant role, or no role at all in his impending shoulder trouble. But that does not stop Collins from looking back on June 1 with a twinge of regret.
"I was very uncomfortable with the whole situation," the manager said. "Here this guy is and he's facing history, and I'm aware of that and I'm all excited for him. I really am. I wanted this guy to get a no-hitter so bad. And at the same token, I saw that pitch count keep rising."
Collins joked that he "almost wanted to have the catcher tell the hitters what was coming," sparing himself a fair bit of heartache. Eschewing superstition, he communicated with Santana throughout the later innings of the game, making it clear that he would remove his pitcher as soon as the Cardinals struck their first hit.
They never did. And so Collins sat in his office Friday afternoon, one year later, wondering again if he could have done anything differently. On the other side of the office wall, a group of Mets laughed and joked as they played a virtual poker game on their smartphones.
Santana was not among them.
As for Collins, he considers June 1, 2012, one of his two career highlights, ranking alongside the first game he managed. He keeps his wife's ticket stub from that night framed in his home, along with a signed shirt and ball. But he has never watched a replay of the game.
"I've seen it once," Collins said. "That was good enough."
Mets' banged-up relief corps largely in limbo
MIAMI -- The Mets hope that right-hander Jeurys Familia, who has been on the disabled list since May 9 with a bout of right biceps tendinitis, can resume throwing off a mound this weekend.
As for the rest of a gaggle of injured pitchers, it's anyone's guess.
Right-handers Scott Atchison, Jenrry Mejia and Frank Francisco have all suffered setbacks from various arm injuries over the past few weeks, and all remain in limbo. Manager Terry Collins said he had no idea when any of them might be able to return to the big leagues.
"They're not shut down, but they're not throwing off a mound," Collins said. "They're not in pitching mode."
The Mets have actually improved their bullpen numbers without those pitchers, thanks in large part to the work of Greg Burke (6 2/3 scoreless innings in May), Scott Rice and Brandon Lyon (each with scoreless efforts in eight of his last nine outings) and Bobby Parnell (seven consecutive saves converted).
• As promised, shortstop Omar Quintanilla shifted into the leadoff spot for Friday's game against the Marlins. Quintanilla could bat leadoff regularly against right-handed pitchers, manager Terry Collins said, as long as he "continues to do what he was doing in Vegas, and that was swinging the bat good and getting on base." Quintanilla owned a .419 on-base percentage in 47 games at Triple-A Las Vegas.
• Right-hander Collin McHugh, who will make a spot start Saturday in place of the injured Jon Niese, acknowledged that the tweet he posted after the Mets' Subway Series sweep of the Yankees "was not worth it." McHugh tweeted: "You can call us the NYC Sanitation Dept. because we just SWEPT the yankees from Queens to the Bronx," but deleted it shortly thereafter.