Zack Wheeler‘s 2017 season has been a mixed bag, but he will get a chance to work through it, as the Mets currently have no plans to limit the right-hander’s innings this year.
Wheeler, 27, missed two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery and the plan all along was to keep him on an innings limit as the team got deeper into the season.
Currently sitting at 70 innings tossed, Wheeler is on pace for 140 innings by the conclusion of the season, a number the Mets seem content with.
“I don’t think there’s a number per se,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “But I think we need to consider the fact that he’s been so good for so long in the first half, that and how many more does he really have after all the time he’s had off.”
The righty really started to find his groove in early May. That continued through mid-June when Wheeler had back-to-back performances on June 13 and June 19 where he surrendered 15 runs in a combined 3 2/3 innings.
Those two outings landed him on the disabled list with what the team called biceps tendinitis, but in his first start back on the first of the month, Wheeler labored through 82 pitches in just 3 2/3 innings against the Phillies.
Wheeler will get a chance to redeem himself this afternoon when he toes the rubber against the St. Louis Cardinals.
“His velocity has come,” Collins said. “We saw a great improvement in the command of his secondary pitches. Then he went through that issue where I think he ran into a little fatigue and he lost the feel for the command of his secondary stuff. That’s why it’s important that we took a look at where he’s at now.”
On the season, Wheeler owns a 3-5 record with a 5.01 ERA, 4.80 FIP, 1.514 WHIP and 8.4 K/9. That ERA, inflated, due to his poor starts last month.
As of today, there has been no discussion of limiting Wheeler’s innings, whether that be shaving his starts or even moving him to the bullpen, an idea that has been rumored.
“When you’re talking about the bullpen, you’re talking about can he pitch two days in a row. That’s where it’s at. His stuff will play anywhere when it’s good but if you’re going to put him in the bullpen and you pitch him tonight and he throws 25, when’s he going to be able to go out there again?” Collins said. “In our certain situation, we’re trying to get back in the race. The development side has to take a backseat right now. We need to get back in this race and that’s by putting our guys back out there.”
Wheeler early on in the season was one of the strong suits of our otherwise weak rotation, but since those horrid outings the middle of last month, Wheeler is starting to be timid, laboring through a ton of pitches and looking less confident on the mound.
A big mantra I believe, and you have seen it in my other articles, is that baseball is a 90 percent mental game. Wheeler has the stuff, he always has, but he needs to put that into motion on the mound.
Hopefully today against the Cardinals, he will go in with a clear mind, and get back on track to the progress he was showing in May of this year.
It’s never easy coming back from Tommy John surgery and having immediate success, but Wheeler’s rehab process was especially long, so I really think that it is mostly in his head, with just a little bit of the residue from TJ.