It will not be the dream spring training for Zach Wheeler that he might have hoped. After all the Stephen Strasburg comparisons, Wheeler was scratched from today’s start against St. Louis with a mild strain of the oblique muscle.
Wheeler sustained the injury swinging a bat in pregame warm-ups. He said the injury was nothing serious and it felt a little stiff, but that is something we’ve heard numerous times from various Mets – notably Jose Reyes – over the years about this type of injury.
“I’d rather be out one start than two months and be behind the eight-ball when I do come back,’’ Wheeler told reporters. “Early in the spring you don’t want to risk anything. We have a month, or a month and a half, left.’’
Veteran Mets watchers will quickly say it will be more than one start, but he’s right, caution is the way to go on this injury. Muscle strains and muscle pulls always last longer than originally speculated; it’s a baseball variation of Murphy’s Law.
Wheeler, obtained for Carlos Beltran in 2011, is one of the Mets’ most highly regarded prospects. It is expected he’ll open the season in the minor leagues at Triple-A Las Vegas.
General manager Sandy Alderson said the Mets’ handling of Wheeler is: “Mostly precautionary at this point. He tried to throw and didn’t experience any problem, but he was sore to the touch, so we’re going to back him off.’’
On a positive note for Wheeler, he said it was “cool” that he got the chance to be introduced to Beltran this afternoon. Not as cool as striking him out, but exciting nonetheless.
NOTE: I’ll be back with more after the game.