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Friday, February 08, 2013

Mets News and Notes: Wheeler, Collins, Lutz, Gee, Tradition

Mets News and Notes:

Zack Wheeler hopes to learn from Matt Harvey this spring.

“We talked a little bit this offseason,” Wheeler said. “I asked him to help me out this spring. He was more than willing to just let me tag along and show me the ropes a little bit, because he was sort of in the same situation last year that I am this year.

“It’s baseball,” Wheeler continued, outside the minor league clubhouse. “I’m sure it’s pretty much the same over there as it is over here. It’s all about learning and trying to get better.”

Jonathan Niese has reported early to Spring Training....

Left-handed reliever Daniel Herrera, who made 16 appearances for the Mets in 2011, expects to be ready to pitch in games in May.

The 28-year-old Herrera, an early arrival to Port St. Lucie, is about to step on a mound for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery last May.

He will not be in major league camp.

Herrera was not a free agent this past offseason. He remained under the Mets' control after making three early season relief appearances for Triple-A Buffalo last year.

Terry Collins in recent days has not backed Sandy Alderson's comments about Frank Francisco not having a firm hold on the closer's job.

Said Collins: “I told him the same thing yesterday. I said, ‘You’re the guy. We haven’t signed another close, per se. Bobby Parnell is here. I heard [Brandon] Lyon is going to have a physical. [Scott] Atchison is here. We’ve got candidates. But you’re the guy. But we’ve got to get you ready. And if you’re not ready, I’ve got to find somebody else.'

"And that’s kind of what Sandy is saying. This guy, with what’s happened last year, with his elbow issues, he’s got to go out and earn a job. If he’s healthy, he will earn the job, in my opinion.”

Zach Lutz’s transition to outfielder became more official Thursday with outfield coach Tom Goodwin now at the Mets’ spring-training complex.

Goodwin had Lutz doing drills with the outfield group throughout the voluntary workout. Lutz had bought an outfield glove a few weeks ago and done some preliminary work outdoors at Alvernia (Pa.) University, where his father is the baseball coach.

Lutz is known for his bat, not his glove. But he exclusively has been an infielder as an amateur and professional. He is a willing pupil, though, especially if it will get him on the Opening Day roster.

“A few weeks ago Terry Collins called me up and said, ‘Hey, we want you to get a lot of reps in the outfield this spring. Come down the first week of February, and when Tom Goodwin gets down there, you’ll get all your reps out there and just get comfortable out there,’” Lutz recalled. “I’ve never played, but I told him I’ll do whatever it takes.

“I feel pretty good so far. I think going to the outfield you just have to be an athlete out there. You have to let your athleticism take over. I talked to Duda about it. He gave me some tips about it. [Prospect Juan] Lagares, he played shortstop [before converting to outfield]. I mean, he’s a lot faster than I am. He was giving me some pointers. I’ll take whatever I can.”

Dillon Gee will have nitroglycerine cream nearby in the cold weather in New York just in case, but the right-hander believes his surgically addressed circulation issues are mostly behind him.

Gee underwent season-ending surgery during last year’s All-Star break to repair a damaged artery in his pitching shoulder that had left his entire right arm alarmingly numb.

The Mets' stadium in Port St. Lucie, Fla., is reverting to the name it previously held -- Tradition Field, which it was called from 2004 through 2009. It is again being sponsored by the community of Tradition, Fla.

The stadium had been called Digital Domain Park the past three seasons, but that company is having financial difficulty.

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