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Saturday, June 29, 2013
Zack Wheeler set for Citi debut

By Matt Ehalt

NEW YORK -- Mets fans finally get to welcome Zack Wheeler to Flushing.

The Mets' top prospect will make his Citi Field debut Sunday against the Nationals. Wheeler has made his first two starts on the road and is 1-0 with a 3.18 ERA.

"It's a great day for our fans," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "The future is right around the corner. Matt Harvey may be the leader of that future, but certainly Zack Wheeler is right up there with it."

The Mets had originally planned call up Wheeler for the home series against Chicago from June 14-16, but it was pushed back to the following series against the Braves in Atlanta.

"It's going to be one of the most enjoyable, memorable times for anybody making their home debut, especially as highly touted as Zack," Mets third baseman David Wright said. "Best advice is just enjoy it because it only happens once. Don't go out and try to do too much. Don't try to go out and impress. Do what's got you to this point, and he obviously knows what he's doing."

WHAT A CHANGE: Two weeks ago Saturday, the Mets fell to the Cubs, their third straight loss and 10th in 12 games. Afterward, Collins called for his team to play with a certain level of passion, as did Wright.

Since then, the Mets are 9-5.

Wright knows the obvious reason for the change.

"I just think I'm a hell of a motivator," he joked.

While that may or may not be the reason, both Collins and Wright have seen the team play with more passion and energy.

"I think you get a couple wins, get some confidence back. I think guys start enjoying themselves a little more rather than pressing and trying to place so much pressure on themselves," Wright said. "You come laughing, joking around. You play a little more loosely."

NOT TOUGH: Veteran LaTroy Hawkins stresses that relievers can't fixate on the previous night's struggles, such as the bullpen's implosion in Friday night's 6-4 loss to Washington.

However, he knows those type of losses will be magnified when the Mets drop a game in which their ace dominates for seven innings.

"It's only heartbreaking to the media because it was Harvey's start, I think," Hawkins said with a slight laugh. "First of all, it happens. That's part of the game. You don't wish it happened, but it happens."

After blowing Harvey's brilliant outing Friday, the Mets bullpen responded with three scoreless innings Saturday. On Friday, the Mets yielded five runs in two innings, turning a 4-1 lead into a 6-4 defeat.

"You think about it after the game, think about some of the things you could have gone different, then you turn the page," said Hawkins, who did not pitch in Friday's debacle. "We're out there in the same situation the next night. Can't let it fester over."