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Notes: Wheeler on Mets GM; Howard hurt; trade

@ToddZolecki
February 15, 2020

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Zack Wheeler smiled and chuckled on Saturday as he answered questions about Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen. In case you missed it: Wheeler signed a five-year, $118 million contract with the Phillies in December. Before he agreed to the deal, he said he circled back to

CLEARWATER, Fla. – Zack Wheeler smiled and chuckled on Saturday as he answered questions about Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen.

In case you missed it: Wheeler signed a five-year, $118 million contract with the Phillies in December. Before he agreed to the deal, he said he circled back to the Mets, where he pitched from 2013-19. Wheeler told the New York Post this week that “it was basically just crickets when I did.” Wheeler wasn’t surprised “because it’s them. It’s how they roll.”

Van Wagenen fired back on Friday, telling reporters, “Our health and performance department, our coaches, all contributed and helped him parlay two good half-seasons over the last five years into $118 million, so I am proud of what our group was able to help him accomplish.”

Two good half-seasons? Boy, that escalated quickly.

Wheeler genuinely did not seem bothered by Van Wagenen’s retort. In fact, he seemed amused about the whole thing.

“He’s taken a couple of things I said to heart, I guess, that I really didn't mean for him to do,” Wheeler said. “But I don't care. … Take it with a grain of salt, I guess. It is what it is. I don't care, personally. I'm happy here. This is where I chose to be at the end of the day, and I'm excited to get going with these guys.”

Is Wheeler surprised a GM chose to escalate it?

“I don't know,” he said. “I don't want to make this go on any further. I don't think it's meant to go on any further. We're two grown-ups here and we're battling like little kids.”

It sure could intensify the Mets-Phillies rivalry, couldn’t it?

“You guys are going to get me in trouble,” Wheeler said. “No, it's going to be fun in the first place. Battling against my old teammates, friends, it's going to be a good time. … I don't think I need any more motivation. When you're going up against a former team or something like that, you're already going to have motivation. I don't think it gives me any more. Like I said, it's kind of small in my mind what's going on right now. I think it got blown up a little bit out of proportion. I don't think it's anything too serious.”

Howard tweaks his knee
Top pitching prospect Spencer Howard has not thrown off a mound since last weekend because he tweaked his right knee while broad jumping in a workout.

An MRI exam came back clean.

“Just kind of landed funny. No big deal,” said Howard, who ranks as MLB Pipeline's No. 34 overall prospect. “Nothing is like actually injured, just pretty much gives me an excuse to do nothing early.”

The Phillies already were planning on bringing Howard along slowly because he threw fewer than 100 innings last season. They hope by limiting his workload and innings early, he will be able to help them later in the season. Howard ran sprints on Saturday. He hopes to return to throwing off a mound in the near future, but it is up to the Phillies.

Phillies acquire Garlick in trade
The Phillies traded left-hander Tyler Gilbert to the Dodgers for outfielder Kyle Garlick. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Phillies designated for assignment outfielder Nick Martini.

Garlick, 28, batted .250 with three home runs, six RBIs and an .842 OPS in 53 plate appearances last season with the Dodgers. He plays mostly left and right field. Gilbert, 26, was in Phillies camp as a non-roster invitee. He went 2-4 with a 2.83 ERA in 36 appearances with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

The Phillies claimed Martini off waivers from the Reds in January, when they designated Odúbel Herrera for assignment.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .