Apr 05

Zack Wheeler Roughed Up In Vegas Debut

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.

WHEELER: Rocked last night.

WHEELER: Rocked last night.

Jeremy Hefner tonight against Miami and Aaron Laffey Sunday is what it is going to be. If they get through those starts intact, then they’ll get another.

“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.

Mar 01

Beltran Sings Wheeler’s Praises

Carlos Beltran left the Mets for San Francisco two summers ago with the hope of playing in the World Series.

Beltran did his part, batting .323 with seven homers in 44 games with the Giants, but it wasn’t to be. Even so, Beltran believes the Mets got the better end of the deal that sent pitching prospect Zack Wheeler to New York.

“It worked out better for them,’’ Beltran recently said. “I thought we were going to go to the playoffs and it didn’t happen. But it is what it is. I took the chance of going to the team that was fighting for a playoff spot and it didn’t work out for me. But it worked out for the Mets.’’

While Beltran has a few more years left to his career, the ceiling seems unlimited for Wheeler, currently sidelined with a strained oblique muscle.

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Feb 28

Mets Announce Tentative Timetable For Wheeler

If history taught us anything, it is to not rely on a Mets manager for an injury diagnosis.

So, forgive me if I don’t totally buy into Terry Collins’ declaration of Zack Wheeler’s right oblique strain “is not that bad.’’

Of course, somebody else’s injuries usually aren’t.

Wheeler already missed one start, and the Mets’ current plans have him missing at least one more. The thinking is he’ll have a bullpen session Tuesday and get in a game in three more days. Of course, that’s all predicated on Wheeler coming out of the bullpen with no tightness or pain.

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Feb 28

Injury Updates: Wheeler, Santana, Feliciano And Murphy

When it comes to pitching injuries, always bet the over.

Despite Zack Wheeler saying he would be all right to make his next start, his strained right oblique muscle – classified as mild – will keep him sidelined.

The Mets haven’t determined when Wheeler will throw again, but these things usually have several steps, including long tossing, throwing off the mound and perhaps a batting practice session. Add a day of rest between each step, so do the math.

Sandy Alderson said last night in a conference call there’s no sense rushing Wheeler if he’s not ready, that it is counterproductive. He meant in all areas, and if there’s a physical question Wheeler will sit.

Manager Terry Collins said last year at this time pitchers were throwing batting practice. This year, the Mets have already played a handful of games thanks to the accelerated scheduling because of the World Baseball Classic.

Players are creatures of habit, and that includes offseason preparation. Not being exposed to spring training with the WBC, perhaps Wheeler wasn’t physically ready for his program.

This has always been a concern, that players would be susceptible, especially pitchers, to injury.

SANTANA UPDATE: Assuming no setbacks, the timetable for Johan Santana is to throw off a mound Friday, pitch batting practice or in a “B’’ game Tuesday, then in an exhibition game March 10 or 11.

MURPHY UPDATE: Daniel Murphy, down with a strained intercostal muscle in his right side, is a week to ten days away from playing in a game. That’s pretty much what the Mets said when he was injured several days ago.

FELICIANO UPDATE:  Pedro Feliciano has been cleared to resume throwing, but will keep wearing the heart.

NOTE: I will have several more posts throughout the day.

Feb 27

Wheeler Scratched From Start With Oblique Strain

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.

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