A repeat of Generation K? No way

U.S. Futures All-Star Zack Wheeler, then of the U.S. Futures All-Star Zack Wheeler, then of the San Francisco Giants, throws a pitch during the 2010 XM All-Star Futures Game. (July 11, 2010) Photo Credit: Getty Images

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Back in spring 1995, Generation K was going to change everything for the Mets, a downtrodden club known three years earlier as "The Worst Team Money Could Buy" that went on to lose 103 games in 1993.

Jason Isringhausen, Bill Pulsipher and Paul Wilson were supposed to be the saviors, just like Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry a decade before them. As it turned out, the splashy nickname was the best thing about that injury-ravaged pitching trio, which amassed a grand total of 31 wins -- including 21 by Isringhausen -- and never materialized into the dominant rotation everyone dreamed it would be.

Fast-forward to 2012 and the Mets are preparing for the next generation, though attaching the K this time probably is out of the question. Still, Zack Wheeler, Matt Harvey and Jeurys Familia are the physical embodiment of hope for this wayward franchise.

Like the trio's arrival in the majors, a nickname can wait. The pressure of carrying the future of the Mets on their shoulders is something these young pitchers are trying to block out at this stage.

"I can't think about that," said Harvey, the seventh overall pick in the 2010 draft. "I've got to do what I can do. I've got to play baseball just like I've always played, do everything I can do on the field, and whatever happens happens. It's not my decision. I can control what I do."

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The Mets have no immediate plans to promote any of the three this season, but there already is a camaraderie building at the lower levels. When Familia showed up at the minor-league clubhouse last week for early workouts, Harvey embraced him with a big welcoming bear hug.

"I'm really excited to be in that group," Familia said. "I've worked very hard to be with those guys."

Harvey turns 23 March 27, so that makes him the elder statesman of the group. Familia, 22, grew up in the Dominican Republic and is quickly getting a better command of English. As for Wheeler, 21, communication hardly is a problem. Wheeler has a very active Twitter account (@wheelerpro45) that he uses for updates on everything from his trips to the mall ("needing some jeans") to the Grammys ("Never heard a British girl cry before. It sounds kind of funny. But Adele can sing").

Wheeler has yet to arrive in Port St. Lucie because he is driving down from his home in Georgia (check Twitter for updates). Of the three, he is considered to have the highest upside as the Mets' top-rated prospect by Baseball America. But raw talent is not the only factor when it comes to succeeding in the majors, especially as the hype builds around a young player.

"I put so much pressure on myself that really any outside pressure was secondary," said David Wright, a former first-round pick out of high school who was promoted at age 21. "I think that brings the best out of people too. When you're put in that situation, you obviously know your talents are good enough. Now it's just a matter of going out there and letting that ability take over."

Confidence is not in short supply with this group. When asked which pitchers he most admires, Familia named Pedro Martinez and Josh Beckett as the two after whom he has modeled himself -- Martinez because he was "very aggressive and smart," Beckett because "his delivery makes it look like he's doing everything easy."

"I feel like I can get every hitter out," said Familia, who whiffed 96 in 872/3 innings for Double-A Binghamton last season. "I have so much adrenaline out there. If you don't have confidence, you can't do it."

With Johan Santana still a question mark and the Mets lacking rotation depth, Sandy Alderson could be tempted to promote one of his top prospects ahead of his time. But with so much research on the perils of rushing young pitchers, the last thing the Mets can afford is a repeat of Generation K, which began as a coronation and ended as a cautionary tale.

"The temptation with those three guys doesn't really exist at the moment," Alderson said. "Obviously, when you bring somebody up -- whenever you do -- they still have to perform. So on the one hand, you're tempted to bring somebody up to fill innings, but on the other hand, they better be ready. Because if they're not, there are obviously consequences to that, too."

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