MINNEAPOLIS — Zack Wheeler and the Mets downplayed the seriousness of his right shoulder injury Tuesday, but there weren’t any easy or optimistic answers about what it means for the Mets’ chances of moving him by the July 31 trade deadline.
Wheeler described the issue as a shoulder impingement — the Mets had used the more general term “fatigue” — and didn’t promise that he would miss only one start. Manager Mickey Callaway said Wheeler wouldn’t throw “for the next few days.”
The earliest Wheeler is eligible to start again for the Mets is Tuesday, at which point he will be a half-month removed from his most recent game. He needs to pitch by Wednesday if he is to get two starts in before the deadline to show interested teams he is healthy.
A free agent at season’s end, Wheeler, 29, had been the Mets’ top trade chip this month. Now, maybe not.
“I don’t really want to set a timetable because you never know how your body is going to react to it. Could be one start, two, three,” Wheeler said. “It could be bad timing, but like I said I’m trying to get out there as soon as I can. I’m trying to pitch every fifth day. That’s my job, that’s what I want to do and it’s just unfortunate it happened now I guess.”
Wheeler’s shoulder bothered him in his past two starts, he said. Those came against the Yankees and Phillies in the week before the All-Star break as the Mets arranged their rotation so Wheeler could sneak in an extra game, the first-half finale. He allowed six runs in five innings against Philadelphia.
Over the weekend, “it got a little too cranky where I had to finally say something,” Wheeler said. An MRI Monday in New York revealed no structural damage. Although he has dealt with shoulder impingements before, he said, “this one was a little more than other ones.”
“It doesn’t really scare me,” Wheeler said. “We got an MRI and came back pretty much clean besides that. I’m just happy there’s nothing structural and you can deal with what I’ve got and be back in a short amount of time.”
Callaway said: “Obviously we weren’t totally aware of what he was dealing with, which is good. Players play through a lot. He played through it as best he could, and now we’re going to take care of it.”
Pitchers often deal with “dead-arm periods,” usually in spring training or early in the season, when they feel tired and don’t have an actual injury. This is a step up from that.
“Dead arm is kind of, I don’t know, your arm feels like it weighs 1,000 pounds,” Wheeler said. “Impingement feels like a dead arm, but it’s also a little something else there. That’s the reason we went to get it checked out, make sure it’s nothing structural and nothing wrong with that. They said it looked perfectly clean besides that. That’s what I was worried about and I’m now happy that it’s only the impingement. Hopefully I can get back out there pretty soon.”
The Mets haven’t decided yet who will fill in for Wheeler on Saturday against the Giants. Callaway mentioned righthanded rookies Chris Mazza (in the majors as a reliever) and Walker Lockett (in Triple-A Syracuse as a starter) as candidates.
The Mets called up Jacob Rhame from Triple-A Syracuse to take Wheeler’s roster spot. Rhame’s two-game suspension, stemming from the April excitement with Rhys Hoskins and the Phillies, is still under appeal . . . Jeff McNeil was the Mets’ recipient of the Heart and Hustle Award, awarded annually by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association to the big leaguers who “demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and traditions of the game.”
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