Sports Zack Wheeler primed for first start with Mets in 2.5 years Zack Wheeler last pitched for the Mets on Sept. 25, 2014. Photo Credit: Alejandra Villa By Michael Thompson Special to amNewYork April 7, 2017 10:22 AM Print Share fbShare Tweet Email Zack Wheeler, at last, is set to return to the mound Friday night at Citi Field after a two-year recovery from Tommy John surgery. While the right-hander slowly rehabbed his arm, the Mets no longer resemble the middling ballclub to which he last contributed. Wheeler last pitched Sept. 25, 2014, throwing five innings and giving up three runs in a loss to the Nationals. Back then, neither Noah Syndergaard nor Robert Gsellman sported their trademark locks or beard, respectively. Oh, and the Cubs still hadn’t won a World Series in more than a century. How the world has changed. Read on for what else has changed for the Amazin’s since Wheeler, 26, was last on the active roster. They’re contenders The Amazin’s looked to be several years from becoming a World Series threat at the end of 2014. With plenty of talent developing in the minors, the Mets were a .500 team with plenty of promise. But as he recovered, Wheeler watched as his team catapulted itself to the top of the National League in 2015 and currently aims for a third consecutive playoff berth. Rise of the rotation Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey had already made their presence felt by 2014, but another pair of dynamic arms were called up the following year. Syndergaard and Steven Matz contributed to the Mets’ pennant run. A year later, they were joined by Gsellman and Seth Lugo, who exceeded expectations while filling holes in a depleted rotation. Bruised and bandaged Wheeler hasn’t been alone on the disabled list. Harvey missed the entirety of 2014 and parts of last year while deGrom and Matz have also fought injuries. Captain David Wright may never play again and others like Neil Walker and Lucas Duda have missed considerable time. New faces It’s hard to believe utilityman Eric Campbell batted third in Wheeler’s last start. That spot is now belongs to Yoenis Cespedes, the focal point of a revamped lineup. Gone are Daniel Murphy and Ruben Tejada. In their place are Asdrubal Cabrera, Jay Bruce and Walker. Michael Conforto and T.J. Rivera help make up a much deeper bench. By Michael Thompson Special to amNewYork Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Comments We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.