Pregame notes: Welcome home, Wheeler

NEW YORK -- Zack Wheeler won't make his first Citi Field start until Sunday. But he officially took up residence in the home clubhouse Friday, as the Mets returned from a long road trip to begin a series against the Nationals.

The 23-year-old sounded far from awestruck when speaking with reporters in front of his new locker Friday afternoon.

Zack Wheeler

Zack Wheeler

#45 SP
New York Mets

2013 STATS

  • GM2
  • W1

  • L0

  • BB8

  • K8

  • ERA3.18

"Big-league clubhouse, big-league field. It's baseball," Wheeler said, of his new surroundings.

He is looking forward to pitching on Sunday though, despite calling it "just another start" at first.

"Obviously it's my first start at Citi, and it's gonna be very exciting, and it's gonna be a big point in my life," Wheeler added. "Just soaking it in. It's gonna be fun."

Wheeler's parents will be at the stadium Sunday, as will his two brothers. Manager Terry Collins is looking forward to Sunday, too.

"I think Zack's gonna start getting more comfortable and more comfortable," Collins said. "[Pitching coach] Dan [Warthen] and Zack worked on a couple things yesterday and again today, that we think are gonna make a big difference and make him more relaxed on the mound. This is gonna be a fun start for him on Sunday."

Wheeler threw a bullpen session Friday, prior to speaking with reporters.

"Felt good," he said. "Was working on a few things, and just keeping it simple, nothing too much."

Warthen spoke Thursday in Denver about trying to help Wheeler avoid tipping his pitches. But Wheeler was tight-lipped when asked about what he was working on.

"I think I'm just gonna keep that between us out there," he said.

We'll see for ourselves on Sunday.

WELCOME, PART 2: Eric Young Jr. will make his Citi Field debut Friday -- the Mets acquired him from the Rockies just prior to the start of the last road trip.

The son of former major leaguer Eric Young, Eric Jr. was born in nearby New Brunswick, N.J., and played at Piscataway High School. But he has never gotten to play here before. He was on the disabled list last season when his former team, the Rockies, came to town.

"Growing up so close, and seeing this on TV, going to Shea Stadium and watching my dad a bunch, now getting to play here, it's exciting," Young said.

Young is off to a hot start with the Mets -- in eight games, he is hitting .382, with four runs scored and six RBIs.

"I tell you what, his game plays here, in this ballpark," Collins said. "Because he can bunt, he's basically a singles, maybe doubles guy, he's not a big power guy. And he uses the whole field to hit, [and] this is a big outfield here. I think his game plays here and his footspeed in the outfield is gonna make a big difference."

WELCOME, PART 3: Tim Hardaway Jr., drafted by the Knicks on Thursday, visited Citi Field prior to the game along with his father Tim, the former NBA star.

Hardaway Jr. took a few cuts in the Mets' indoor batting cage, and then posed for photos and signed autographs outside the Mets dugout.

When asked what his favorite baseball team is, Hardaway Jr. said, "I don't know. I might have to be a Mets or a Yankees fan."

He's learning fast.