SAN FRANCISCO -- Zack Wheeler threw a bullpen session at AT&T Park on Monday afternoon and then spent 20 minutes running sprints on the warning track. He covered the same route that Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner often take as they're preparing for starts.
When he was selected sixth overall in the 2009 draft, Wheeler seemed destined to join Cain and Bumgarner at the top of the Giants rotation. But seeking a repeat championship and an impact hitter, the Giants shipped Wheeler to New York in 2011 in a deal that brought Carlos Beltran to San Francisco.
It's a deal that general manager Brian Sabean does not regret. All the same, Wheeler wouldn't mind sticking it to his old team when he takes the mound for the Mets on Wednesday.
"I definitely want to go out there and do well for myself, and maybe show them what they could have had, I guess," Wheeler said, smiling. "It'll definitely be fun."
Wheeler played with several current Giants — including Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Mike Kickham -- but he said he doesn't keep in touch with many members of the organization. He has seen enough from afar, though, to know that the Giants could use a hard-throwing young pitcher.
Instead, Wheeler has joined Matt Harvey in giving a flash of hope to a fan base that is desperate for one. The buzz was so loud as Wheeler's debut approached that Mets PR chief Jay Horwitz made a stealth visit to the minors earlier this season to tell Wheeler what to expect.
Wheeler made his debut on June 18 and threw six shutout innings against the Atlanta Braves. He comes to San Francisco with a 4.29 ERA in four starts, with walks (13 in 21 innings) being his main problem thus far. The free passes have done nothing to dim the excitement in New York, where Wheeler and Harvey are viewed as a duo that can finally get the Mets back into contention. At the very least, they'll be fun to watch.
Harvey, 24, has hit 100 mph on the gun this season and could start the All-Star Game. The 23-year-old Wheeler has gotten it up to 98 mph while following Harvey's lead.
"You watch him every time out and make sure you pay attention," Wheeler said. "He's a power pitcher just like I am. It's just picking up little things from him here and there."
Wheeler was paying attention Monday night as the Giants scored three runs against Harvey in a game they would lose in the 16th inning. It was part of a fun 24 hours for Wheeler, who said he heard from plenty of Giants fans the moment he landed in San Francisco and sent a Tweet out from the airport.
He said he still hears from them "all the time" on Twitter.
"They're awesome," Wheeler said. "They're true and loyal. They love the game of baseball and know the game of baseball. They're always going to be there to back you up."
That continued after Wheeler was traded in a July 28, 2011 deal he said he found out about on Twitter. Wheeler said he checked Twitter early in the morning that day and saw that he might be on the move. After checking SportsCenter, he called his agent and found out that he was being sent to New York in exchange for Beltran.
"It's an honor, I guess," he said. "Beltran is probably going to be a Hall of Famer. He's one of the best players right now. He's still doing it. It's a pleasure to be traded for him."
The deal didn't get the Giants into the postseason, but there will be no looking back when Wheeler takes the mound Wednesday.
"Our ultimate need was to get another bat because we weren't weathering the storm without Buster (Posey)," Sabean said recently. "We did our due process. At the time we made the right move and it just didn't turn out."
Wheeler shrugged off any talk of bitterness or an emotional return. He's a Met now, and he's happy with how everything worked out.
"At the time it was a better opportunity for me," he said. "The Mets pitching wasn't really deep and the Giants had guys who were young and doing very well. Now I have a chance to be a front of the rotation starter (in New York) a little faster than I could have here.
"It's the game of baseball — you trade people and make deals so you can win. It happened and it will probably happen again sometime. It's the game."