After a two-year absence, Zack Wheeler is returning to the Mets’ rotation, and the hard-throwing right-hander will take the mound on Friday in the series opener with the Marlins at 7:10 p.m. ET at Citi Field.
Wheeler’s long comeback from Tommy John surgery has been highly anticipated in New York. He last pitched before the Statcast era. In 2014, the right-hander’s four-seam fastball velocity was 95.1 mph, ranked fifth among all pitchers who threw at least 1,000 four-seamers. For Miami, the Marlins are hoping that left-hander Wei-Yin Chen can not only bounce back after a bumpy 2016 but also collect his first MLB hit.
Chen went 0-for-44 in his first season with the Marlins, and he is now hitless in 50 career at-bats. The longest such drought is held by Cubs lefty Jon Lester, who was 0-for-66 before he collected his first hit, which came off John Lackey in 2015.
“It’s pretty amazing that he hadn’t thrown one out there somehow, someway,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said.
The Marlins and Mets will see plenty of each other early, with seven games scheduled over 10 days, including four at Marlins Park (April 13-16).
To start things off on Friday, Wheeler is set to throw his first pitch in a big league game since Sept. 25, 2014.
“It’s been a long road,” Wheeler said after being named to the rotation. “I’m here and I’m healthy, and I want to pitch.”
Chen, in his second season with the Marlins, dealt with his own arm issues in 2016. A left elbow sprain sidelined the 31-year-old for almost two months. He finished a disappointing 5-5 with a 4.96 ERA in 22 starts, after going 11-8 with a 3.34 ERA in 31 starts for the Orioles in ’15.
Three things you need to know about this game
• Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto’s home run on Wednesday night at Washington had an exit velocity of 109.8 mph, per Statcast. That makes the drive the hardest-struck home run of Realmuto’s career. His previous high was 109.1 mph on June 11, 2016.
• Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes crushed Miami pitching in 2016, batting .333 with three homers, four doubles and 11 RBIs in 18 games. Matched up against Chen, Cespedes is 5-for-16 (.313) with a home run and four strikeouts.
• Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins has 27 career home runs against the Mets, his second most against any club. The only team the 27-year-old has connected for more homers against is the Nationals (28).
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002.