MINNEAPOLIS -- Downplaying the shoulder injury that forced him to the injured list this week, Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler returned to the team on Tuesday determined to climb back atop the mound before long.
When exactly that will be, Wheeler cannot say. He defined his injury as a right shoulder impingement, which is essentially a form of rotator cuff irritation, and said he hopes to return before long. He first felt shoulder discomfort during his July 2 start against the Yankees, then again July 7 against the Phillies. When Wheeler tried to throw last weekend after taking a few days off for the All-Star break, the discomfort was enough for him to say something to members of the Mets’ training staff.
“It doesn’t really scare me,” Wheeler said, noting that there is no structural damage to his shoulder. “Obviously, I want to be back as soon as possible. I don’t even want to miss one start.”
Wheeler will miss at least one start, however, with rookies Walker Lockett and Chris Mazza the most likely candidates to take his place. At another time of year, the injury would not be a major issue for Wheeler or the Mets. But landing on the IL just two weeks before the Trade Deadline could affect Wheeler’s value as the Mets look to unload the impending free agent to a contender. Wheeler, who admits he cannot avoid the Trade Deadline talk that surrounds him, called it “unfortunate” that his injury occurred now.
Overall, Wheeler is 6-6 with a 4.69 ERA in 19 starts. His strong strikeout rate -- 130 of them in 119 innings -- should tempt contenders who are not scared off by the injury concern.
“I’ve been through this enough to where it doesn’t really bother me,” Wheeler said of the rumors. “If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. I don’t know what to tell you. … You hear about it all the time between TV, social media, [the media]. You’re going to hear about it and you’re going to see certain teams and that type of stuff, but my goal is to go out there every fifth day, just grab the ball and pitch, and do the best I can.”
Active … for now
To replace Wheeler on their active roster, the Mets recalled reliever Jacob Rhame from Triple-A Syracuse. Rhame is still appealing a two-game suspension he received for throwing near the head of Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins back in April. Because the Mets subsequently optioned Rhame to Triple-A, he never completed the appeal.
Rhame said he knew nothing of the process other than that he was active on Tuesday.
“If I told you, I’d be lying,” Rhame said. “As far as I know, I’m active and just ready to pitch.”
Although Rhame held a 5.40 ERA at Syracuse, he posted a 1.80 mark in nine games after returning from the injured list in late June.
“Rhame’s been throwing the ball really well,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “Obviously, we needed a pitcher. We wanted to find someone that could come up and help us the best they could. He’s been throwing the ball well, and we felt like he was the best option at this point to come up and help the bullpen.”