Posted by Richard Jones at 12:00 PM
Yesterday Dan Warthen mentioned that Zack Wheeler had some tenderness in his arm after a bullpen session. There's a large range of possibilities of what this means. The Mets sent a loud in clear message that their goal for the pitching staff is to leave spring trainging healthy. Could this be in Wheeler's head and he is just being overly cautious? Could it be the beginning of a bigger issue? Could it be something in between those two?
If Wheeler, for some reason, is unable to pitch come opening day, then the issue of what to do with him becomes irrelevant. So I want to focus on what I believe the Mets should do with him if he remains or gets healthy.
In Warthen's press conference he also stated that Wheeler's inning limit this year will be in the low hundreds. I take that to mean no more than 130. He also stated that as a starter he would likely be limited to 5 innings per start. That limits Wheeler to no more than 26 starts. I would want the option of having some of those starts in the payoffs. If the fab 4 starters are healthy on opening day and either Gsellman or Lugo look like there ready to build on last years success I would leave Wheeler in an extended spring training for the 1st four weeks of the season.
Besides not burning Wheeler's innings in the beginning of the season this would give the Mets the opportunity to see a little more of what they really have with Gsellman and Lugo. One of those might just take the 5th starting spot from Wheeler even if all goes well with Wheeler's health. In his 7 starts for the Mets last year Gsellman pitched better than any 7 game stretch Wheeler ever put together in his two years with the Mets before getting hurt. However Wheeler does have a lot of untapped potential that I'm not willing to give up on just yet.
If Wheeler is 100% ready to go after those 4 weeks I would work him into the rotation to rest the other starters. I would give him additional days to rest between starts. For instance his first start might be to rest Matz on a Friday. The next Friday he might take Harvey's turn. The following Friday deGrom's. After going through the rotation once evaluate what we have and go from there.
One other take away from Warthen's press conference was his statement that the fab 4 looked the best he has ever seen them. A few weeks back I made some projections. They were probably the most optimistic projections out there. Seeing Syndergaard come in with less body fat but adding 17 pounds of muscle without losing any flexibility and similar but to a lesser extent with the other starters has me believing this this will out perform those projections if they stay healthy.
The Mets staff is extremely talented but there motiviation seems to be matching their talent. This could be a very special year for the Mets and their fans.