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Wheeler (arm) will start the Mets' Grapefruit League opener Friday against the Braves, Matt Ehalt of The Bergen Record reports.
One of eight starters competing for a spot in the rotation this spring, Wheeler is a more realistic candidate for the No. 5 gig than most of his fellow challengers, but he's still viewed as the underdog to frontrunner Steven Matz (elbow) for those duties. Given the fragile health that Matz, as well as Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey, have shown in the past, the Mets are still eager to stretch Wheeler out this spring as rotation insurance, though opening the season in long relief remains the most likely outcome at the moment. A bullpen assignment may ultimately prove to be the best way for the Mets to optimize Wheeler, who harbors his own injury concerns after missing the 2015 and 2016 seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery and making only 17 starts in 2017 due to a stress fracture in his right arm. Wheeler's availability this early in the spring at least suggests the Mets aren't worried about a setback in his recovery from the arm injury heading into Opening Day.