Apr 29

Today’s Question: Can Wheeler Encore DeGrom’s Effort?

Jacob deGrom pitched like an ace last night to ease the Mets’ hemorrhaging. Today’s question is obvious: Can Zack Wheeler duplicate that effort?

WHEELER: Pressure start for him. (AP)

WHEELER: Pressure start for him. (AP)

Wheeler is 1-2 after missing the last two years following Tommy John surgery. It’s not a great record, but he is coming off a strong seven-inning performance last weekend against Washington. Wheeler gave up four runs on four hits with six strikeouts while throwing 101 pitches.

After the Mets’ 7-5 victory Friday night, to keep the momentum going they need to win at least twice in this series and preferably sweep. If they lose the next two they’ll trail the Nationals by 8.5 games. There’s plenty of time to make that up, but two losses would mean giving away the momentum created by deGrom.

The Mets have long waited for their dream five-man rotation of Noah Syndergaard, deGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz and Wheeler to dominate. However, the five have never gone one cycle in that rotation. That might not come until next year as when Matz is ready to come off the disabled list, Wheeler’s innings limit might sit him.

Mar 27

Wheeler Rocked, Lugo Rolls

The competition for the Mets’ fifth starter role took a turn Monday with a strong outing from Zack Wheeler and a poor one from Seth Lugo. Each should make one more limited appearance this spring before the Mets’ brass makes a decision as to the fifth starter.

Wheeler, who spent the better part of the past two years recovering from Tommy John surgery, threw five shutout innings and had his fastball top out at 96 in a split-squad win over Miami. Lugo, who helped save the Mets’ playoff run last spring and had pitched well in the WBC, gave up four runs in 4.1 innings in a loss to Washington.

Despite the contrasting performances, the Mets did not make an announcement as to who will be the fifth starter because it is not a clear-cut decision based on numbers.

The decision could come down to whom the Mets feel is best to handle the up-and-down rigors of working out of the pen, which is most likely Lugo. Wheeler does not have bullpen experience, while Lugo does and was brought to camp in part to pitch in relief.

Another factor with Wheeler is his proposed innings limits, initially set at 110 innings and is now up to 120 to 125. Manager Terry Collins said the other day the innings could be determined on the fly this summer. Should that really be the case, then there’s probably nothing decided, which is a reminder of the Matt Harvey innings flap in 2015.

If there really is an innings limit, the optimal decision would be to wait until May or June, when he could join the rotation and pitch on a regular routine. With a strong chance of inclement weather in April, there’s a strong chance of rainouts, delays and cold temperatures that hurt even healthy arms let alone one coming off elbow surgery.

EXTRA INNINGS: Steven Matz, who was bumped from his last start with elbow irritation, threw 55 long tosses today on flat ground. The Mets still haven’t said whether he’ll undergo a MRI. … Closer Jeurys Familia was in New York today to meet with the Commissioner’s Office regarding a suspension for his domestic violence case last October. The expectations are he’ll at least 30 games. … Outfielder Brandon Nimmo‘s chances of making the Opening Day roster have greatly reduced because he’s not making progress on his strained right hamstring. … Outfielder Juan Lagares said his strained right oblique muscle feels better.

 

 

 

Mar 10

Mets Get Positive Showings From Harvey And Wheeler

Optimistic was the word of the day for the Mets regarding pitchers Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler. Despite losing both of their split-squad games Friday, the Mets had to be encouraged from what they got from Harvey and Wheeler, both of whom are recovering from surgery.

HARVEY: Another positive step. (Getty)

HARVEY: Another positive step. (Getty)

Hit in his first start, Harvey gave up only one run in their 7-6 loss to Houston. In their other game, Wheeler, who hasn’t pitched in nearly two years, gave up a run in two innings in the Mets’ 5-2 loss to the Braves.

Harvey topped out at 92 mph., but insisted he’ll reach the upper 90s before the end of spring training.

“Definitely an improvement from the first one,” Harvey, who pitched with a stiff neck, told reporters. “I think it’s just a matter of time before things click and mechanics click, timing clicks. But I think overall it was definitely a plus. … It’s nice to go up there and throw 97 to 100 mph. or whatnot, but you need to figure out how to pitch. It’s been awhile since I’ve been in a competition like that, so for me, I think it’s a matter of time.”

Velocity isn’t the issue for Harvey. It is command and movement on his pitches. It is also working in his slider and change-up, which he did today.

Harvey is approaching his recovery with the right mindset. Eventually, he’ll throw harder, but he’s right in saying there’s time and the most important thing is to get back to pitching.

Harvey is currently slotted third or fourth in the rotation, but Wheeler will likely open the season in an extended spring training. That is the presumption considering he’s on an innings limit of 110.

Wheeler, who underwent Tommy John surgery in March of 2015, had a simple objective.

“As long as I came out of this healthy today, that was my No. 1 goal,” Wheeler told reporters. “I’ve been going through this for two years now, so whatever happened, happened. I got a strikeout and gave up a home run. All of that really doesn’t matter right now. I’m just glad I’m healthy right now.”

Feb 15

Wheeler’s Sore Elbow Illustrates Mets’ Depth

The issues of whether Zack Wheeler is a starter or reliever, or his innings limitations, are moot if the Mets can’t get him on the mound. Here we are, less than a week into spring training, and the Mets’ first red flag is already flapping with news Wheeler – who hasn’t pitched in two years while recovering from Tommy John surgery – has tenderness in his elbow.

The immediate plan is for him to play catch Thursday, and if there’s no pain then throw in the bullpen Friday.

It’s all about caution for Wheeler, who likely will open the season on the disabled list because let’s face it, there’s no reason to rush him, not with Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman around to pick up the slack. When Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz were injured last season, Lugo and Gsellman – and don’t forget, Bartolo Colon – kept the rotation afloat.

Maybe the tenderness is because Wheeler hasn’t really thrown since last August, or perhaps it was scar tissue, but pitching coach Dan Warthen said they won’t rush him. There’s no reason.

“We’re not going to push it because we want to see this kid healthy and once we get healthy, we want him to stay healthy, so we’ll have kid gloves with him,” Warthen told reporters in Port St. Lucie.

Warthen said it would be great if Wheeler made 25 starts, and even projected how many innings he’d throw if that happened, He also said it might be difficult for Wheeler to work out of the bullpen, something he’s never down before. But none of that matters if he can’t get to the mound.

Lugo figures to be the fifth starter and Gsellman could make the final 25-man roster as a long reliever. As for Wheeler, just getting him healthy is imperative. If they can do that, perhaps we’ll see Wheeler sometime in June.

We won’t know what kind of setback this will be, but it underscores the potential depth the Mets have in their rotation. There has been sentiment the Mets could trade Lugo or Gsellman, but Wheeler’s elbow reminds us there’s no reason to go there now because of the fragility of the rotation.

 

Dec 14

Harvey Optimistic, But Fingers Crossed

When it comes to Matt Harvey proclamations, I’ll believe it when I see it. How can it be any other way for the Mets’ “it’s always something” former All-Star? Harvey, who underwent season-ending surgery for the second time in three years last season, said he’s optimistic about his return from surgery to treat thoracic outlet syndrome.

HARVEY: So far so good. (AP)

HARVEY: So far so good. (AP)

It’s a complicated procedure because it entailed removing a rib on his right side to relieve pressure on nerves connecting between the neck and shoulder. The ailment caused a lack of feeling in his pitching hand and subsequently cut off circulation that made his hand feeling cold.

Talking to reporters at a Mets’ charity function in Queens, Harvey expressed optimism.

“I’d like to think so,” Harvey said about making a strong rebound season. “Obviously, I don’t have a crystal ball. The way things are feeling now, the way the body feels, I’m feeling great.”

Harvey said he’s feeling warmth in his hand and the tingling sensation is gone.

Harvey was struggling at 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA in 17 starts before his season abruptly ended. In one respect the diagnosis was a positive, because after each lackluster start there was the second-guessing the 216 innings he threw in 2015 after coming off Tommy John surgery had drained him.

There are no problems so far, said Harvey.

“The ball is coming out really good right now, especially for December,” he said. “I’m feeling great. My workouts are going well. I’m just looking forward to getting down to spring training and having a good time. … Obviously being healthy through spring training and getting to the season and continuing to be healthy through the season is a big plus for me and something I’m looking forward to doing.

“As far as the offseason goes, I’m right where I want to be.”

We’ve heard this before about Harvey and we all know him being where he wants to be in December isn’t the issue.

The Mets didn’t have a definitive innings plan for Harvey in 2015, and so far there’s been no mention of a plan for Harvey. Or for Jacob deGrom, who is also coming off surgery. Or for Steven Matz, who is also coming back from surgery.