The game before the game Tuesday afternoon at Citi Field was an injured Zack Wheeler against Tomas Nido, Juan Lagares and Adeiny Hechavarria, a live batting practice session that qualified as Wheeler’s last big test before returning from his right shoulder impingement.
There was no score, but by virtue of his shoulder discomfort being “totally gone,” as Wheeler put it, he was the winner. He threw 30 pitches, with an intermission at the halfway mark to chat with interim pitching coach Phil Regan as if to simulate the break between innings.
“Everything is good,” said Wheeler, who hasn’t started since July 7, the final game before the All-Star break. “Just wanted to get facing live hitters out of the way before I actually jump back into a game since it’s been a few days now. So now that I did that, I feel ready to get back out there.”
Manager Mickey Callaway added: “He did look good. The stuff was coming out, the control, the command was there. The break on his pitches seemed to be in line with what you want to see and more importantly he said he felt good while he was going.”
Wheeler is slated to come off the injured list Friday to face the Pirates at Citi Field, a source said Monday. The Mets haven’t made that official — they want to see how Wheeler feels upon waking up Wednesday — but when he does return, Wheeler will be limited to about 75-85 pitches, Callaway said.
With the July 31 trade deadline looming, Wheeler’s return could be his last start with the Mets. He is a free agent after this season and perhaps the player the Mets are most likely to deal.
Wheeler, a veteran of the trade-rumor circuit, responded to a question about his fate the next week-plus by saying, “Eh, last year was the same way.”
“The one thing about Zack,” Callaway said, “is he doesn't worry about too much.”
Fun with fundamentals
More than an hour before stretching for batting practice — and more than four hours before first pitch — on Tuesday the entire Mets team took the field for a spring training-esque defensive practice, an unusual occurrence in July.
“Just a day off [Monday], let's get guys going again,” Callaway said. “We had a long road trip, we didn't want to be stiff. We went through [pitchers fielding practice] a little bit, some of our fundamentals, first-and-third plays and things like that.”
A cut on his hand that required several stitches sent Tim Tebow to the injured list with Triple-A Syracuse on Tuesday. He suffered the injury while fielding a ball Sunday.
In his third year of professional baseball, Tebow, a former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback, has struggled immensely. He has a .163/.240/.255 slash line with four homers, 20 walks and 98 strikeouts in 77 games.
Callaway, at least, is still putting on a public happy face about the Mets’ postseason chances and buyer/seller status at the trade deadline. Asked why he was willing to use closer Edwin Diaz for two innings in one game recently, he said in part: “We don't want to lose some of our guys, so we're trying to win every game we can to get back into this thing and keep our team intact.”…Pete Alonso will be presented with his $1-million check for winning the Home Run Derby — as well as make his donations to Wounded Warrior Project and Tunnel To Towers — before the Mets’ game Friday.