Tommy. John. Those are two words that no player wants to hear, especially pitchers. Unfortunately, Zack Wheeler‘s worst fear became a reality once he went under the knife on March 25, 2015. From that moment on, it has been sheer grit and determination to get back onto the diamond and rejoin the what should be the league’s best rotation. Due to the team’s success last season, many people have seemingly forgotten about him. He knows that, and it motivates him to keep driving himself through rehab.
“It’s been tough, mental side and physical side,” Wheeler told the New York Post. “You have good days, bad days arm-wise, mostly good, but those bad days, they are there and you just have to keep in mind this is what it takes to get back on the field. Some days you don’t feel like going in that weight room, but you have to remind yourself where you want to be once you do get back up there.”
The Mets rotation is set with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Bartolo Colon. According to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, the Mets are eyeing a return of July 1st for Wheeler. It is expected that he will reclaim Colon’s spot in the rotation but, nothing is written in stone.
Things happen. Maybe Colon is flourishing in the rotation and manager Terry Collins decides that Wheeler could be a lethal weapon out of the ‘pen. Honestly, whatever happens this much is true, the added firepower of Zack Wheeler will be an immense boost that should help the team further stifle opposing offenses and catapult the Mets into playing deep into October.
Wheeler, 25, is essentially like adding a marquee free agent signing at mid-season. After all, on most teams he would be a solid number 2 or a superb number 3. And while the Mets rotation is so good that the hard-throwing righty will slot in at number five when he returns, you could make the argument that Wheeler has the best “stuff” among the team’s Fab Five. In his limited time in the majors, he’s posted an 18-16 record with a 3.50 ERA and 271 strikeouts in 285 innings.
Where Wheeler has struggled in the past is typically with his command. He reminds me a bit of Tim Lincecum. The freak, as he is called, was once a dominant pitcher. He could throw in the upper 90’s with a devastating curve, but by the 5th inning he would already run his pitch count to 100-110 pitches. Mets pitching coach Dan Warthen will be focused on getting Wheeler to be more efficient moving forward. Wheeler recently told reporters that in addition to getting back on the mound this Summer, he hopes to become a more efficient pitcher.
“I want to stay on top of the ball instead of being on the side of it,’’ Wheeler told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post last week. “In the past I was just throwing and saying, ‘Here it is.’ My ball moves a lot, and that’s what got me in trouble.’’
Assuming that the rotation is fully healthy upon his arrival, Wheeler simply offers the Mets and Terry Collins flexibility immediately. No matter where he is placed, whether it is in the bullpen or rotation, he will be a welcomed adrenaline shot during another run for the postseason. It’s a heck of a luxury to have, akin to having an extra ace up your sleeve.