For those thinking Zack Wheeler will be the answer to the gaping hole in the Mets’ rotation, think again. He’s at Triple-A Las Vegas for a reason, and that being he’s not ready. Injuries to Johan Santana and Shaun Marcum will be handled without compromising Wheeler’s development.
“I don’t know what they have planned for me,’’ Wheeler told me in spring training when asked if there was a timetable for his promotion. “All I know is I have to keep working and improving.’’
Wheeler identified his growth obstacles as control and command of his secondary pitches, notably his change-up. He’s not able to consistently throw it for strikes, especially when behind in the count and hitters are sitting on a fastball.
“It’s a feel pitch,’’ Wheeler said. “It’s the toughest pitch for me to command. It takes a lot of work.’’
Wheeler, who missed time this spring with a strained oblique muscle, has reported no discomfort since he was cleared to pitch, but nonetheless hasn’t been sharp He said there’s nothing wrong physically, but remains in a mechanical funk.
In his debut last night for Las Vegas, Wheeler didn’t get a decision, but there was no hiding the difficulty in his start, as he labored through 86 pitches in 3.1 innings, giving up a run on three hits, but with three walks and a wild pitch. For the 86 pitches Wheeler threw, he should have worked into the sixth or seventh innings at least. A no-decision with 86 pitches is a wasted start.
General manager Sandy Alderson repeatedly said this spring the Mets won’t rush Wheeler. Part of sending him down for the first six weeks of the season is to give the Mets another year of control to keep him off the free-agent market for another year and delay arbitration.
“He’s not ready,’’ Alderson said. “We’re not going to bring somebody up where he would be in position to fail.’’
Wheeler had spectacular moments this spring when he overpowered hitters and impressed with his composure, but it was early so not much can be drawn from that other than optimism.
Last night is no indication of what kind of year, let alone career, is in store for Wheeler. But, the lack of command underscored he isn’t ready to dominate major league hitters. For all the talk Wheeler might have better stuff than Matt Harvey, that’s not the issue. That’s only speculation that doesn’t help either pitcher.
So, those dreaming of a Harvey, Wheeler and Jon Niese trio, keep dreaming. It’s not coming any time soon.
NOTE: I’ll be back later this afternoon with posts on Hefner/Buck working together tonight; the continuation of the 73 series; an analysis of the lineup; and a game wrap. Please drop in throughout the day. Thanks.