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MLB Week 12: A Look Ahead at Key Storylines and Matchups


Port St Lucie, FL, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler (65) throws in the third inning during a spring training game against the Washington Nationals at Tradition Field. Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

There is plenty to look forward to in Major League Baseball this week, and that includes some excitement from teams that have been lacking it this season. But, as time moves on, so too do the players who carry the game. And this week will usher in the next chapter of MLB stars.

Wheeler Debut – If you want a glimpse into the future, you’ll want to watch the Mets on Tuesday. It’s weird to openly encourage anyone to watch the Mets, but it’s true, at least for one day. Their future ace will be making his Major League debut this week. Just seven days after former top overall pick Gerrit Cole made his debut for the Pirates, Mets top prospect Zack Wheeler will make his first appearance in the majors. The Mets acquired the sixth pick in the 2009 draft from the Giants in 2011 for Carlos Beltran and he instantly became the organization’s top prospect. This season in Triple-A, Wheeler is 4-2 in 13 starts with a 3.93 ERA and 9.6 K/9 rate. Wheeler will get the nod in the nightcap of the Mets’ doubleheader with the Braves, following up Matt Harvey in the matinée. It’s the first taste of, what will likely be, the front end of the Mets’ rotation for years to come.

Myers Promotion – Tuesday will also be a big day for the Tampa Bay Rays, who will welcome in a future star of their own. Outfielder Wil Myers will make his Major League debut in Boston. Myers was the centerpiece of the Rays’ trade with the Royals in the offseason in which they sent starters James Shields and Wade Davis to the Midwest. Myers is universally regarded as one of the top five prospects in all of baseball. In Triple-A this year, he hit .283/.354/.514 with 14 home runs and 57 RBI in 63 games. He’ll join the Rays as they kick off a very important stretch with series against divisional rivals Boston, New York, and Toronto, then three games against A.L. Central-leading Detroit. Tampa sits in fourth place in the A.L. East, but is just five games back of the Red Sox.

Tigers’ Trouble – The Detroit Tigers have a decision to make. Who is worthy of being their ninth inning guy? It sure doesn’t seem like it’s their current closer, Jose Valverde. As USA Today’s Bob Nightentgale notes, the Tigers’ bullpen is 4-12 on the season with nine blown saves and Manager Jim Leyland is at a loss for who to use with the game on the line. Valverde has three blown saves and he was only brought in at the end of April. In his last eight games, dating back to May 27th, Valverde has allowed hits in six of them and has turned nearly every outing into an adventure. Some in Detroit are angling for the promotion of youngster Bruce Rondon, who is posting a solid season in Triple-A with a 1.07 ERA and a dizzying 12.4 K/9 to go along with a fastball that tops out above 100 mph. There are also rumors that the Tigers are in talks with the Phillies about making a trade for Jonathan Papelbon.

Series of the Week – There are nearly a dozen series worth keeping an eye on this week across both leagues. Those includes the Royals/Indians, Nationals/Phillies, Orioles/Tigers, Pirates/Reds, Athletics/Rangers, Rays/Red Sox, Rays/Yankees, Red Sox/Tigers, Rangers/Cardinals, and Reds/Diamondbacks. This will also be a very important week for the San Diego Padres, believe it or not. Thanks to a six-game winning streak, San Diego is now one game over .500 and just two games back of first place. They’ll play seven games this week against division rivals — three in San Francisco and four at home against the Dodgers. And, while Los Angeles has endured a very disappointing season, the team will play in one of the more interesting series of the week. The Dodgers will play in The Bronx, for a two-game set pitting two of the most storied franchises in the game. Not only that, but Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly will make his return to Yankee Stadium in uniform for the first time since leaving New York for L.A. in 2008.

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