Mets' Zack Wheeler gives team-first answer to bullpen question

Zack Wheeler said he has no issues with the Mets’ front office if general manager Sandy Alderson and his staff decide to put the right-hander in the bullpen for next season.

Once a high-ceiling starting pitcher prospect when Alderson traded Carlos Beltran to the Giants for Wheeler in 2011, the 26-year-old Smyrna, Georgia native missed the last two seasons recovering from Tommy John surgery.

“Physically, I’m feeling good. No aches or pains. We’ll see once we get down to Florida,” Wheeler said Wednesday at Citi Field where he helped with the team’s holiday coat drive. “I’ve started my whole life. Obviously I’d like to do that, but I know (the Mets) are looking out for me, innings-wise and stuff like that (in 2017).

“I’ve been out for two years, so it’s hard just to throw me back in there. I get that,” Wheeler added. “I’m just looking out for myself and my health and whatever is best for my health is what’s fine with me and the plan going forward.”

Earlier this week, Alderson said at the Winter Meetings in Maryland that Wheeler might be a good candidate for the bullpen.

“There’s no reason for us to say, ‘Well, (Wheeler) has got to be a starter,'” Alderson said. “I’m not going to sit here and tell (reporters), ‘Oh he’s perfect. He’s ready to go.’ But we don’t have anything to suggest he won’t be ready to pitch in some capacity (in 2017).”

Wheeler said Wednesday that he’ll start his throwing program in earnest “around Christmas time,” but that he threw a few weeks ago “and it felt good.”

“I’m feeling the best that I’ve felt. I think this rest, time off, has definitely helped me,” said Wheeler. “It’s tough mentally, especially missing two full seasons when you’re only supposed to miss one, one and a half. You do what you can to move forward.”

The pitcher said his main goal entering next season is “just stay healthy.” Wheeler said he’s kept in touch with his fellow pitcher teammates, including Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz, who both missed the end of the season due to injury.

“You keep up with the guys. They’re all feeling well. I know that. I knew (Yoenis) Cespedes wanted to come back. He loves New York. Glad they were able to bring him back.

“Hopefully all of our pitchers can stay healthy. With those bats it’s a lot easier for us,” added Wheeler. “Personally, just stay healthy. Pitch the whole season, whether it be starting or in the bullpen. Whatever the team sets out for me.”

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