Since Zack Wheeler’s last start in 2014, his return to the Mets’ rotation has been more a myth than reality. However, after actually seeing Wheeler pitch twice in Spring training with my very own eyes, I can verify that the myth of his return is no longer a discussion of speculation- rather, it is finally a reality.
Evaluating Wheeler’s Spring
March 10 vs. the Braves in Orlando: 2 IP, 31 Pitches, 1 ER, 1 Hit, 1 BB, 1 K.
Giving up one home-run, in his return to the mound, Wheeler topped out at 94mph. It was noted that Zack was “feeling good” after this outing, with no pain following the start.
March 16 vs. the Nationals in West Palm Beach: 2.1 IP, 50 Pitches, 2 ER, 3 Hit, 1 BB, 2 K.
Despite a bomb by arch rival Bryce Harper, Wheeler’s second start in the Spring was a huge success. Topping out at 97mph, as a Mets fan, we can only hope those radar guns in Florida aren’t getting overheated. The pitching staff as whole clearly added some power to their punch. In addition, Wheeler confirms he is ready for the regular season, whether he’s asked to start or come out of the bullpen.
Zack Wheeler discusses today's outing, his second of the spring: pic.twitter.com/gahYOSB2Tn
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) March 16, 2017
With Wheeler’s recovery being the first “serious” injury to any of the Mets’ studs on the pitching staff, it is interesting to see how the organization handles his return. With keeping in mind that this return has been so anticipated, he cannot be overworked to the point the wait wasn’t worth it; in addition, with the mentality of this being the Mets’ window to win the Series, you can also see why they are eager to throw Wheeler in the back-end of the bunch, essentially completing the star-studded rotation. Yes, Seth Lugo has been extremely impressive in the World Baseball Classic for Team Puerto Rico; and yes, Robert Gsellman cannot be overlooked coming off his clutch stretch in the end of last season.With that being said, what to do with Wheels?
Anyway, Zack Wheeler clearly made a statement today, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by the club’s decision makers.
— Marc Carig (@MarcCarig) March 16, 2017
Sandy Alderson has came out and said Wheeler will be on a 125 innings limit. With this, time to do some math. In 2014, Wheeler recorded 32 starts for the Mets, while having pitched 185.1 innings- essentially, averaging 5.8 innings a start. If Wheeler stays on par with his average innings per start, we are looking at a projection of 21.5 games started for 2017.
That being said, Wheeler starting the season in the bullpen has not been ruled out; as a matter of fact, I believe starting the season with Wheeler in the bullpen is the Mets’ best bet. While having a healthy competition for the 5th spot in the rotation between Gsellman and Lugo, Wheeler would be able work on whatever issues he needs to fix, while preserving his innings limit for a potential playoff run.