PHILADELPHIA - Frank Viola said he's "excited'' to get back to work next Friday as the pitching coach for Triple-A Las Vegas. The East Meadow product's return to the field comes little more than two months after he had open-heart surgery.
Viola, 54, earned praise for his work with Class A Savannah last season. The Sand Gnats posted the second-lowest ERA in the South Atlantic League (3.15). Viola was slated to begin this season with Las Vegas and oversee the development of pitching prospects Jacob deGrom, Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard. But when doctors discovered a heart issue in spring training, Viola had surgery.
The Mets signed Bobby Abreu, 40, as a bench bat, not as a starting rightfielder. But with Eric Young Jr. on the disabled list and Chris Young scuffling, Abreu has increasingly filled the void in the outfield.
On Friday night against the Phillies, Abreu is expected to start in rightfield for the fourth time in the Mets' last five games. Beginning with the second game of Sunday's doubleheader, Abreu started three straight games, going 5-for-11 with two doubles and two RBIs. "The [defensive] trade-off is OK,'' Terry Collins said. "But you've got to be careful of wearing him down.''
Abreu last started four of five days in July 2012 with the Dodgers. He spent the remainder of the season as a pinch hitter before sitting out 2013.
Said Collins: "I've got to pick and choose my spots with him.''
Zack Wheeler stayed in Thursday night's game after being hit in the backside by Cesar Hernandez's hard comebacker in the second . . . Lucas Duda successfully bunted against the shift to lead off the second and later scored.