Injury Bug Remains Mets Worst Enemy
The Mets efforts to chase down the last wild card slot in the final five weeks of the baseball regular season will not be getting the shot in the arm it was hoping for from a returning Zack Wheeler. The 26-year old right-hander who underwent Tommy John surgery in the spring of 2015, forcing him to miss the Mets run to last year’s World Series, has been shut down again following a truncated minor league start earlier this month. He’ll now spend the next two weeks on the inactive list, throwing again in September.
New York isn’t officially closing the door on the possibility that he could rejoin the club before the end of the 2016 season. But with a pileup of injuries and no signs of the team stepping up a gear and making a legitimate push to the postseason, it seems highly unlikely that the Mets would risk yet another setback for Wheeler in the closing days of a lost season.
Wheeler was originally supposed to begin rehabbing his elbow in April, but had to undergo another procedure to remove a problematic stitch that had failed to dissolve. Then, after he finally got beyond nerve irritation in the elbow, he was to begin throwing in June and possibly rejoin the rotation at the beginning of July. But then Matt Harvey’s season ended in June, a month after David Wright went down, and Wheeler’s rehab got pushed back even further.
Following their incredible run through the postseason in 2015, MLB betting odds had the Mets opening this season at +1200 to win the World Series, making them the fourth most likely team to win the title in October. But as things stand today you can get +5000 on the Mets, thanks to the injuries and underperformance that have defined this season.
As for Wheeler, the focus on returning in 2016 really needs to become an all-out effort to simply return to baseball at all. As manager Terry Collins said, “I think you’ve got to certainly prepare yourself for the fact he might be one of those guys who for some reason just doesn’t bounce back like you you had hoped.”
One possible source of comfort and inspiration for Wheeler can be found in teammate Steven Matz. While most pitchers return from Tommy John surgery within 12 to 18 months, Matz took two years to fully recover. And this season he has been a consistent and quality contributor in the Mets rotation from the beginning.
The Mets season may be off the rails here in the closing weeks of 2016. But with hopes for Wheeler and expectations that Harvey will be ready to go by next year’s spring training, this team will again be one to watch in 2017.