After missing both the 2015 and 2016 seasons following Tommy John surgery and subsequent setbacks, right-hander Zack Wheeler has landed a spot in the New York Mets rotation this spring. Manager Terry Collins announced Thursday that Wheeler will start the team’s fourth game of the season.
“We felt like we needed to start the motor a little bit (on Zack),” said Collins to Bill Whitehead of the Associated Press. “The bullpen is really a bad role if you haven’t pitched in two years. We said, ‘Let’s run him out there.’”
Wheeler, 26, did not have great numbers this spring, allowing seven runs on 11 hits and seven walks in 12 1/3 innings with only seven strikeouts. He threw very well last time out though (five scoreless innings) and impressed the team with his work in simulated games and in the bullpen. His fastball reportedly reached the mid-90s.
Back in 2014, his last healthy season, Wheeler threw 185 1/3 innings with a 3.54 ERA (97 ERA+) and 187 strikeouts. His elbow ligament gave out in spring training 2015 and he’s been working his way back since. The Mets will monitor his workload carefully this year, and they’re smart not to waste bullets in the minors or bullpen. If he’s healthy and ready to go, turn him loose.
The Mets will be without left-hander Steven Matz for several weeks, Collins confirmed, which opened the door for Wheeler. , though tests revealed no structural damage.