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Mets' Zack Wheeler wants to start, but he’d be a reliever if needed

Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler delivers against the

Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler delivers against the Washington Nationals during an MLB baseball game at Citi Field on Saturday, Sept. 13, 2014. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Follow the logic: The Mets need some bullpen help, right? Zack Wheeler needs to keep his innings down after missing two seasons because of Tommy John surgery.

So the easiest thing would be to turn Wheeler into a super late-inning weapon, at least part of the time. Remember when Noah Syndergaard came out of the bullpen in that playoff game against the Dodgers in 2015 and was throwing absolute gas?

Except . . .

“I am a starter,” Wheeler said on Wednesday in a phone interview from his Georgia home. “I want to be a starter my whole career. I don’t think I’m a bullpen guy.”

Don’t misunderstand. Wheeler is willing to do whatever the Mets need. It’s just not his mission to be a late-inning guy.

“If it’s sort of what works out best innings-wise and all that kind of stuff, then I might have to do it this year,” he said. “It’d be fun coming in in those type of situations and seeing what kind of competitiveness that I have in the late innings of games. That would be kind of fun. But like I said, I still want to be a starter.”

And he wants to be one from the start of the season until whenever the Mets feel he has thrown enough innings after two years off. Wheeler said he has approached this as a normal offseason. In fact, he threw curves and sliders off flat ground for the first time just Tuesday.

“That means obviously I’m getting closer,” he said.

Wheeler, who turns 27 on May 30, thought he was getting closer to rejoining the Mets rotation last year, but his anticipated mid-season return never happened as he suffered multiple setbacks.

“It was bad,” he said. “I got my hopes up for that. I told myself, ‘I’m going to come back and be strong right on time.’ But your body sometimes doesn’t allow you to do certain stuff. I hated it. I wanted to be back there pitching at Citi Field winning some ballgames. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out.”

If it works out this season, Wheeler will join Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey and Steven Matz in a rotation for the ages. Hey, a guy can dream.

“It’d be unbelievable,” Wheeler said. “We’ve been saying that since Day One and I think fans, media, staff and even ourselves want to see everybody out there at the same time winning baseball games and throwing hard and just dominating people. But we’ve all been hurt at different times.”

Dinner at Citi. For the first time, the Mets will host their annual Welcome Home Dinner at Citi Field the night before the season opener. Tickets for the April 2 event, which begins at 5 p.m., are on sale on the team web site or by calling 718 507-TIXX. The entire Mets roster is expected to attend.

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