FIRST PITCH: The Mets finally get a change of scenery. After a five-game series in Philly that included consecutive 14-, 14- and 11-inning games, the Mets open a three-game set against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on Tuesday at 8:05 p.m. ET.
Zack Wheeler, coming off a dominating performance against the Philadelphia Phillies in which he allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings and struck out nine, starts the opener for the Mets, who look to reach .500. Wheeler (2-5, 4.31 ERA) opposes right-hander Jake Arrieta (1-1, 3.20).
“To go through what we went through, we’re tired,” Terry Collins said. “I’m not going to make any bones about it. This team is tired. We’re going to try to get some guys some days off this week.”
Asked if the firing of Dave Hudgens and release of Jose Valverde may have spurred the 6-1 week against the Pittsburgh Pirates and Phillies, Collins added: “I don’t know. I can’t answer that. We did something that a lot of places do it, a lot of businesses do it. They made a change they thought was necessary. I don’t know what the players thought of it. We haven’t necessarily gone crazy, but I think it got people’s attention, that’s for sure.”
Tuesday’s news reports:
• Matt den Dekker robbed Philadelphia of two runs -- reaching over the wall to take away a homer from Ryan Howard and also throwing out Reid Brignac at the plate -- as the Mets beat the Phillies, 11-2, Monday at Citizens Bank Park. Wilmer Flores finished with a career-high six RBIs, capped by a ninth-inning grand slam. Dana Eveland recorded a pair of big outs in his first major league game in two years. The Mets (28-29) took four of five from the Phillies to move within a game of .500.Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
Bartolo Colon pitched into the eighth inning Monday at Philly.
• Den Dekker batted No. 1 Tuesday and will get the first chance in the leadoff role. Beyond that, Collins is not sure who he might try. It could even be Kirk Nieuwenhuis, presuming he gets promoted once the Mets shed a relief pitcher and return to a five-man bench. Read more in the Post.
• Mike Vorkunov in the Star-Ledger writes that the Mets set the single-day cheesesteak consumption record in the visitors’ clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park on April 30 by collectively downing 103 of the Philly delicacies. Of course, bullpen catchers Dave Racaniello and Eric Langill did plenty of the damage. And it came during a rainout in which the Mets spent hours at the ballpark awaiting their flight to Denver. Writes Vorkunov:
Though impressive, perhaps it should not have been surprising. When it comes to eating cheesesteaks, the Mets are the 1961 Yankees, and their bullpen catchers, Dave Racaniello and Eric Langill, are the Mantle and Maris.
Last season, from April 8-10, Langill set the three-game series record by eating 17 cheesesteaks. He broke Racaniello’s record of 14 -- which had stood for years.
The cheesesteak-eating competition is not without rules and calls for prior planning. To viably set a record, cheesesteaks can only be eaten after getting to the ballpark until batting practice, from the end of batting practice until the game begins, and for an hour window after the game has concluded. There are moratoriums during batting practice and the game, likely so that players and coaches can proceed with their day jobs.
• Former Mets executive Dave Howard is out as president of MSG Sports.
• Although the Mets have settled on Jenrry Mejia as the closer, former pitcher C.J. Nitkowski writes at Foxsports.com that the club has an opportunity to test sabermetric theories by not having a specific ninth-inning arm. Writes Nitkowski:
The Mets have an opportunity here to say to their best relievers, we have no closer, be ready from the sixth or seventh inning on because you could be called upon to get the biggest outs of the game. It is a great way to develop these young arms. Pitching in tight spots late in the game only makes you better as those games test your fortitude. If the Mets put their best young relievers in these games regardless of the inning, the result will be a group of battle-tested arms that will be ready to handle any and all situations.
Expensive closer are great when they are consistent, but so few are. Why force someone into the closer role when you don’t really have one? The Mets have some bright young arms both in their bullpen and in their rotation. This is an ideal time to train those relievers differently, both physically and mentally.
• Demoted Rafael Montero is due to start for Las Vegas on Tuesday. Noah Syndergaard (forearm) is penciled in to reenter the rotation Thursday for the Triple-A club.
• Anthony DiComo at MLB.com previews Thursday’s opening round of the draft. The team web site, like ESPN’s Keith Law, continues to project the Mets selecting University of Hartford left-hander Sean Newcomb.
• Jared Diamond in the Journal calculates where historically the Mets and Phillies playing 57 innings in a series fits.
BIRTHDAYS: Racaniello, the bullpen catcher, turns 36. ... Las Vegas infielder Zach Lutz is 28. ... Ex-catcher Barry Lyons is 54. ... Savannah outfielder Victor Cruzado is 22.
TWEET OF THE DAY:
@AdamRubinESPN as a @Phillies fan I couldn't agree more with this statement
— Christopher McMillin (@ChrisMac1984) June 3, 2014
YOU’RE UP: Who should bat leadoff for the Mets?