Mancuso: Did Wheeler Deserve Another Start?

Plain and simple and decide for yourself about the season shutdown of Zack Wheeler. He deserved another start but the Mets, and conscious about pitching apparently saw it different. Innings, pitch counts and concerns about keeping the arm healthy for next year which could be the reasoning about a decision of mixed reaction.   

Then again, this is not the first time nor the last that a team will shut down a starter. And with nothing to play for, except for pride and looking at next year, the obvious reason to shut down Wheeler is concern about being healthy and ready for next year.

Was this the right decision? Yes to the Mets. Was it wrong for Wheeler? Yes, and the right-hander who finished with more wins than Cy Young hopeful, Jacob deGrom, deserved one more start.  They say the velocity was down a bit, though Zack Wheeler showed no signs of having a dead arm after throwing 182.1 innings.

And if the innings factor played a role, that is more concern than a dead arm.  Logic says that Zack Wheeler should continue this turnaround of a season that had a second half record of 9-1 and a 1.68 ERA in 11 starts. Best pitcher in baseball since the All-Star break and now he sits down for the final 11 games.

Then there is this point of contention, as Wheeler pitched more than 100 innings than he did last year after missing the 2015 and ‘16 seasons with recovery from Tommy John surgery.  And with an injury last year had another season that was cut short.

So the statistics mean nothing. The pitching arm and elbow are more important and that is the logic as Wheeler hopes to be ready with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz in 2019.  Pitching and how the Mets are so conscious about this rotation that could put them in the mix again.

But this is about health and staying injury free and not about letting Zack Wheeler continue because he has more to prove. The emphasis these final games of another losing season will be on Jacob deGrom and his quest for the CY Young Award and of course the final game for David Wright a week from Saturday at Citi Field.

Zack Wheeler will be a spectator with his teammates for both occasions. Disagree with the decision was expected from the standpoint of fans and another start for Wheeler would be that award for this exceptional turn around.  

But there was noting more to prove. Zack Wheeler had an exceptional season and could be in the talk as Comeback Pitcher and Player of the Year in the National League.

From this perspective the innings do not matter. The health of Zack Wheeler is more important. He said Wednesday when informed, that his body was starting to wear down a bit and it wasn’t the arm but the body,  and that would be expected.

“But if I really needed to for the playoff push or something, I could definitely go out there and finish it off. That’s not why I’m stopping. It’s just being smart, really.”

And caution of course from the manager Mickey Callaway,  pitching coach Dave Eiland, and the medical personnel who are also conscious about injuries to Wheeler, Syndergaard, Matz, and deGrom.  So it’s on to 2019 and that’s what this is all about.

This also gives rookie Corey Oswalt an opportunity. He is slotted in the spot held by Wheeler and gets his chance.  If Oswalt fails, there are other options as the Mets could go the free agent route.

And believe it, because 33-year-old Gio Gonzalez, now with the Brewers, made hints last month about Citi Field being a preference with his continued success on the mound in New York. The higher ups, management, heard all about it and the new GM and head of baseball operations will make those decisions.

But this is about Zack Wheeler and a season of success. Who would have thought after a bad first half, and rumors of being shipped out of New York, that Zack Wheeler would prove them wrong and the Mets making the right decision keeping him here.

Shutting Wheeler down  was another reason to build that confidence. Put it this way, a healthy Zack Wheeler is important for the Mets success in 2019.

Comment: [email protected]  Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso


About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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