Wheeler Showed Grit , Willing To Move Into Bullpen Role

Zack Wheeler got the start against the Washington Nationals last night and pitched well, despite not being nearly as effective as he was in his first start against the Miami Marlins.

Last night, the right-hander went six innings (99 pitches) while allowing three runs, seven hits, and three walks. He also struck out two batters in that span.

However, the 27-year old ran into trouble multiple times throughout the night.

In the first inning, Wheeler allowed a leadoff double, that almost left the yard, to Trea Turner. After recording an out, he then proceeded to walk both Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman to load the bases.

He was able to escape the jam unscathed, though, as he got Moises Sierra to hit into a double play.

In the third, he ran into trouble again, and this time could not escape it completely as with runners on the corner, Bryce Harper managed to hit a sacrifice fly to score Trea Turner and give the Nationals a 1-0 lead.

Meanwhile, he ran into trouble in the fourth inning also and two runs scored that inning. One was scored on a softly hit single from Wilmer Difo that just barely escaped the infield, while the other came from a Pedro Severino RBI single.

Despite the struggles he had, though, Wheeler managed to deliver a quality start and give the Mets a chance in the game and the righty believes he did a solid job as well as detailed by Kevin Kernan of the New York Post.

“I thought I did OK. I thought I made a couple mistakes when I was ahead in the count, especially there in the fourth. I could have located the ball a little better. Overall, I thought I hung in there well pitched around a couple jams.”

In his first two starts since being recalled from Triple-A, he has a 2.77 ERA and has tossed 13 innings while allowing only four runs, nine hits, four walks. That line goes along with nine strikeouts.

So far, the righty has looked impressive and Mickey Callaway agrees.

“I thought he threw the ball really well. I thought the only mistake he really made in the game was when he walked [Michael A.] Taylor. That probably ended up costing him two runs.”

“He looked pretty good and he didn’t even have his best stuff. His strikeout swing-and-miss stuff wasn’t there. He battled through it and got through six and got a quality start.”

With Jason Vargas getting closer to a return to the team, the Mets could soon be forced into making a tough decision in the rotation if Wheeler continues to pitch well, as one of the “Fab-Five” will have to be removed from the rotation.

One option, that at least Wheeler is open to, is the right-hander moving to the bullpen as Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News writes.

Wheeler, in the past, has appeared to resist the idea of becoming a reliever, but the right-hander appears to be changing his tone on the matter.

“I am trying to stay up here. It is kind of a battle for me. I don’t know if it is still a battle for anybody else. I am just trying to win some ball games, give our team a chance, give some innings so the bullpen doesn’t get taxed and trying to prove my case.

“I am not being selfish, I am just trying to prove my case. I want to be here and be on this team. Whether it is helping in the bullpen or starting. I want to be here.”

Well, this could change the whole discussion if he is willing to become a reliever, which could potentially give the Mets three multi-inning relievers, with Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo being the other two.

This could be a way of adding a fresh arm to the bullpen and giving Lugo and Gsellman their much-needed rest.

While the team, ideally, would like a pitcher stretched out in Triple-A, the way the team would likely use all three of these pitchers would make it not too difficult to stretch them out as they would already be pitching around two innings per outing.

From there, it would be reasonable to expect that they could get a solid four or five innings, if need be, for a spot start.

About Josh Finkelstein 284 Articles
I am a sophomore at SUNY Cortland majoring in Sport Management. I have been a big Mets fan since 2007 and David Wright has and always will be my favorite player. Also, I do a podcast with one of my friends called Mets on Campus which you can find on theredbeat.com. Follow me on Twitter @JoshFinkMets