Harvey And Wheeler Shine In Hot Florida Sun

By William Coppola

Matt Harvey, NY Mets

If Wednesday was any indication of the state of Matt Harvey for 2018, the future looks bright for the New York Mets. Harvey went two innings giving up two weak hits and one run that scored on a double-play. On one of his two strikeouts he pumped his fastball up to 95 and 96 as Allstar Freddie Freeman looked at all three pitches to end a 1,2,3 first inning. Mixing in some cutters and a few sliders over his first start of the spring season, he looked that sharp with good movement and command on all his pitches.

Next up was Zack Wheeler who has only pitched 371.2 innings over the past five years due to Tommy John surgery and for the second time in less than a week he looked good as he worked the entire strike zone with a mix of cutters, curves and fastballs that ranged from 94 to 96.

That being said, the overwhelming crowd of fans, who made it feel like a Mets home game, came away with a good feeling about what their starting rotation could look like this year. These are baby steps right now with these two pitchers who need to bring back what was a solid top five. Mets fans should be feeling good after what they saw.

That crowd of about 85% Mets fans at Champion Stadium in Orlando (Home of the Braves) was treated to all the bells an whistles as they saw their boys from Queens down by one run, come back to score three runs in the top of the ninth to win it 6 t- 4 Two runs coming on a two run shot to right by switch hitting outfielder Arnaldo Berrios from the left side.

Some side notes: The stadium went nuts when Tim Tebow walked up to bat in the fifth. He flied out deep to center and just missed putting it out in center field. But the show stopper of funny things was an unusual series of umpire moments when we first saw retired Joe West trot onto the field and work the game on the bases and then an awkward few exchanges between the home plate umpire Jerry Layne and the ball boy.

When Braves catcher Tyler Flowers went out to the mound to talk to pitcher Shane Carle after giving up a home run to Brandon Nimmo and than a hard single to Jose Lobaton in the fourth inning on his first two pitches of the inning, Layne signaled to his crew as well as the dugouts with his finger “1” denoting one trip to the mound.
This year a new rule limits the amount of trips to the mound by a team to six per game. The ball boy thought Layne needed one ball and promptly ran out to give him one. When Flowers went out a second time to talk to his pitcher, Layne repeated his signal to the dugout with two fingers and the diligent ball boy delivered two balls.
You could see the coaches for the Braves laughing but they were not going to spoil this scene. Thankfully there was only one more trip to the mound for the Braves as Layne’s ball bag was getting full.
A good day for Mets fans in the swamp.
William Coppola, a contributing columnist for the Bronx Chronicle, has 40 years of baseball experience as a player, coach, umpire, and advanced scout.
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