6/14/2013 11:34 P.M. ET
Byrd providing Mets with much-needed power
By Anthony DiComo and David Wilson / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- For the first five seasons of his Major League career, Marlon Byrd never flashed power potential. He hit just 20 home runs from 2002-06 and spent his time bouncing between the Majors and Triple-A.
In 2007, things started to click. The outfielder spent the offseason completely retooling his swing and overhauling his mechanics. Then he hit double digit home runs in four straight seasons.
"It's just one of those things where you've got to get your swing right," Byrd said.
Byrd faded a bit over the past two seasons and played only 47 games with the Red Sox and Cubs in 2012, but he's reemerged as a surprising power presence in the middle of the Mets' lineup, smacking home runs on Wednesday and Thursday to reach double digits for the fifth time in the past seven seasons.
"I'm taking a good approach to the game, fixing my mechanics and swinging at strikes," Byrd said. "When I don't swing at strikes, I don't get any hits."
While New York has struggled to score runs this season -- the Mets have scored fewer than all but five teams -- it's been relatively successful in hitting balls out of the park. The Mets' 63 home runs are one more than the league average and tie them for sixth among National League teams entering Friday. Byrd's 10 home runs rank third on the team.
In many ways, 2013 has been Byrd's best season. He likely won't be an All-Star -- like he was in 2010 with the Cubs -- but he's on pace for a career-high 26 home runs, and his five home runs in May were tied for his most in a month.
In June, he's picked things up even more. He smacked two home runs on June 5 against the Nationals before launching two more this week. He's raised his average from .241 at the end of May to .252 entering Friday. For a struggling New York lineup, he's been a revelation in the middle of the order.
"It's just one of those things when you're feeling kind of good and you get a streak, you try to ride it as long as possible," Byrd said. "And I just put a couple good swings on the ball and they're going out."
Wheeler slated to pitch second game of twin bill
NEW YORK -- Citing a desire to "put him where he's most comfortable," Mets manager Terry Collins has officially decided to start top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler in Game 2 of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Braves, rather than Game 1. Admitting that Wheeler is going to face significant pressure regardless of when he pitches, Collins said he simply wanted to keep Wheeler on his regular night-game routine.
Thanks everybody for the support along this road to the show. It's an honor to be called up by the @Mets Big thanks to my family and friends- Zack wheeler (@Wheelerpro45) June 15, 2013
"You're not going to take the pressure away from this guy," Collins said. "You can pitch him in a boneyard, you're not going to take the pressure off this guy. Everybody in this room is going to be there. People are going to be there. It doesn't matter if it's at noon or if it's at 1 or if it's at 7. It's a big league game, his first Major League start. There's going to be a lot of heat on him.
"We thought it would be better for him, more comfortable for him, to continue on what he's used to doing, and that's pitching the night game -- give him a chance to get to the ballpark at his regular time, go through his regular routine, without having to get there in the morning at 9 o'clock and not maybe having enough time to get himself prepared."
Matt Harvey will pitch Tuesday's matinee in Atlanta, followed by Wheeler in the nightcap. From there, the Mets will proceed briefly with a six-man rotation, meaning Harvey will go June 23 in Philadelphia on regular rest, and Wheeler will make his second start June 25 in Chicago against the White Sox.
Despite the recent successes of back-end starters Jeremy Hefner and Dillon Gee, Collins said he is committed to reverting to a five-man rotation within a week or two. That means almost certainly bumping one of those two to the bullpen.
Johan stops by Citi Field to visit Mets teammates
NEW YORK -- Though his Mets career is almost certainly finished, Johan Santana stopped by Citi Field on Friday to visit with teammates. Santana, who underwent surgery in March to repair a re-torn left anterior shoulder capsule, had been spending most of his time recovering at home in Fort Myers, Fla. But he will soon begin spending more time around the team, once he starts rehabbing at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan.
"He feels better than where he was at this point with his first surgery, which is a great sign," manager Terry Collins said. "He has a great attitude. He can't wait to continue and hopefully come back and pitch again."
Because the Mets will buy out the 2014 option year on Santana's contract, the left-hander's time in Flushing has all but officially come to an end. Still, Santana hopes to pitch again in the Major Leagues, provided he can make another full comeback from a surgery that he first underwent in September 2010.
Rehabbing for the entire 2011 season, Santana returned last year and pitched the first no-hitter in franchise history, before ending the year back on the disabled list. He reported to camp behind schedule in his throwing program, discovering his latest injury toward the end of Spring Training.
The left-hander's rehab should take him through the winter, putting him on track to return to the Majors potentially sometime next season. But there are no guarantees, considering the nature of his injury and the fact that he will turn 35 in March.
"He feels great about it," Collins said. "He told me the first surgery he had, at this particular stage, he couldn't even get his arm over his head. And now he can do that and do some other things. So he's very, very happy where he's at."
Mets sign 11 picks from First-Year Player Draft
NEW YORK -- The Mets announced Friday that they have signed 11 of their picks from the First-Year Player Draft, including sixth-round selection Champ Stuart, a center fielder out of Brevard (N.C.) College.
Other signees included right-hander Ricky Knapp (eighth round), outfielder Patrick Biondi (ninth), shortstop Luis Guillorme (10th), shortstop Jeff McNeil (12th), right-hander Kevin McGowan (13th), catcher Colton Plaia (15th), first baseman Zach Mathieu (16th), right-hander Brent McMinn (18th), right-hander Gaither Bumgardner (23rd) and right-hander Cameron Griffin (34th).
First-round pick Dominic Smith, a first baseman, is expected to sign soon.
• Shortstop Ruben Tejada, on the disabled list with a right quadriceps strain, has been fielding grounders in Port St. Lucie, Fla., without moving laterally. Tejada is also running in a pool, but is not close to a big league return.
• Because Double-A Binghamton's game was rained out Thursday, rehabbing reliever Scott Atchison will remain there through the weekend, giving him an opportunity to pitch in back-to-back games before possibly advancing to Triple-A Las Vegas. Atchison has been sidelined since mid-May with right elbow inflammation.
• Foreigner kicks off the Mets' Summer Concert Series on Friday night at Citi Field, playing a postgame set on the field. Additional concerts this summer include Nas on July 19, O.A.R. on Aug. 2 and Third Eye Blind on Aug. 23.
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. David Wilson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.