PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - As part of the fallout from Zack Wheeler's season-ending elbow injury, righthander Rafael Montero appears to have a clear path toward making the Opening Day roster.

Dillon Gee was slated for the bullpen until Wheeler's injury opened a spot in the rotation. That leaves a relief opening for Montero, who will be considered as a starter if Gee falters.

"We have to protect ourselves by having another candidate that we feel comfortable with,'' Terry Collins said. "And I think Rafael is that guy.''

Montero, 24, went 1-3 with a 4.06 ERA in 10 games (eight starts) for the Mets last season. But general manager Sandy Alderson believes he would benefit from avoiding another stint at Triple-A Las Vegas.

"He's done very well over almost two seasons at Vegas,'' Alderson said. "I'd hate to overcook a guy by sending him back again.''

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Harvey to face Yankees

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Matt Harvey's fourth Grapefruit League start will be Sunday against the Yankees. He'll pitch with an extra day's rest.

Gee and Jonathon Niese will start split-squad games Thursday, with Bartolo Colon going Friday. Noah Syndergaard starts Saturday, backed up by Long Island's Steven Matz on three days' rest.

Matz threw one scoreless inning in Tuesday's 6-4 win over the Marlins. "I feel good,'' Matz said. "I think I only have one walk. Early in spring, that's what I really focus on, just getting a feel for all my pitches and throwing strikes.''

Jacob deGrom dominated in his start, allowing one hit and facing the minimum 15 batters.

Extra bases

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