- Adam Rubin, ESPN Staff Writer
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VIERA, Fla. -- Facing the team he is expected to again oppose next Thursday in his first-regular season start, Zack Wheeler lacked fastball command.
Wheeler surrendered a three-run homer to Bryce Harper in a five-run third inning and departed without completing that frame because he had thrown more than 40 pitches in that inning alone.
New York Mets
2014 GRAPEFRUIT STATS
The Mets ultimately lost to the Washington Nationals, 7-3, Tuesday at Space Coast Stadium.
Wheeler’s final line: 2.2 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 1 K. He threw in the bullpen afterward to get his workload to 90 pitches.
Wheeler expects to pitch Game 3 of the season on April 3, after Dillon Gee handles Opening Day and Bartolo Colon pitches the second game. Because it is nine days until that outing, Wheeler plans to throw two bullpen sessions between starts to try to stay sharp.
“I’ve done it before, like in the minor leagues, just two small bullpens -- just nice and light,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler indicated he was not holding back from his arsenal knowing he will face the Nats again next week.
“Honestly, I wasn’t really that cautious,” said Wheeler, who finishes Grapefruit Legaue play with a 3.86 ERA in 18 2/3 innings. “Just my fastballs, me and Dan [Warthen] were talking about it, I was pulling off a little bit at the end. My offspeed was good. I was finishing through the pitch. Just a bad day. It’s going to happen. It’s good to get it out of the way in spring training.”
Stephen Strasburg, who starts opposite Gee on Opening Day at Citi Field, allowed a wind-aided solo homer to Travis d’Arnaud and run-scoring triple to Eric Young Jr. in a three-run third. Otherwise, Strasburg was unscathed in 5 2/3 innings.
Black has now allowed 24 baserunners in 9 1/3 innings. And Sandy Alderson reiterated Terry Collins’ statement of a day earlier that Black cannot rely on his September 2013 performance to make the club. Gonzalez Germen (5.40 ERA) is the bullpen alternative at this point.
“Performances matter,” Alderson said. “I mean, last year was a small sample. This year is an almost equal sample. So I think you really have to take everything into account. We’re not ignoring spring-training performance.”
Asked if Black looked a little better Tuesday, Collins said: “Yeah, but you’ve got to pitch ahead [in the count]. Nobody did that today. When you have 20 three-ball counts or something like that, we’ve certainly got to do better than that.”