With the exception of Jon Niese and Matt Harvey, the Mets’ rotation has been abysmal through the first two weeks of the season. So calling up Zack Wheeler, the team’s top pitching prospect, would seem like the answer to that problem, right? Not so fast.
On Wednesday, manager Terry Collins told Mike Francesa on WFAN that the team might consider calling Wheeler up to the Major Leagues if the pitching beyond Niese and Harvey continues to struggle. However, Collins backed off those comments on Thursday, saying he was uncertain when Wheeler might be called up.
“Wheeler could be an option soon? I wouldn’t say soon,” Collins told reporters, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. “But it all depends on what happens. That is why you have to be careful what you say. ‘Soon’ could mean July. To you guys it’s Friday, so there is a big difference.”
Though general manager Sandy Alderson didn’t rule out Wheeler’s promotion, he said the decision wouldn’t be based on the struggles of starters Dillon Gee, Jeremy Hefner and Aaron Laffey.
“I think that’s slightly overstated in the sense that Zack Wheeler will determine when he comes to New York, as opposed to what need we might have,” Alderson told Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com on Wednesday. “Now, if those two—the need and the performance—converge, then that’s a possibility.”
Besides Niese and Harvey, the rest of the rotation is not even keeping the Mets in games. Of the team’s nine wins, eight have come in games started by Niese or Harvey. It’s been a much different tune when Dillon Gee, Jeremy Hefner and Aaron Laffey have taken the hill.
Gee, whose 2012 season was cut short by three months due to a blood cut, is 1-3 with a 5.95 ERA and 1.58 WHIP in four starts. Hefner, the team’s number four starter, is 0-2 with a 7.07 ERA in three starts and has surrendered a team-high seven home runs. As for Laffey, in four appearances (two starts), he yielded 16 hits, eight earned runs and five walks in 10 innings of work before being designated for assignment following the Mets’ 7-6 loss to the Washington Nationals on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Johan Santana, who is out for the season after suffering a re-tear of the anterior capsule in his left shoulder, isn’t going to be playing the role of savior.
Getting back to Wheeler, he’s been coping with a blister problem at Triple-A Las Vegas. In three starts, he’s 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 14 innings. Those aren’t necessarily statistics that are going to get Wheeler called up, but they’re far better than the numbers the Mets are getting outside of their top two starters.
While Alderson reiterated that Wheeler’s performance at Triple-A would be the determining factor in the decision to promote him to the big leagues, keeping him in the minor leagues until mid-June will delay his arbitration eligibility. In a few more days, Wheeler will have spent the first 20 days of the season in the minor leagues. That’s good news for the Mets, because Wheeler won’t be able to use this season as a year of service time toward free agency and would be under the Mets’ control through the 2019 season.
“Super Two status is a consideration. But his level of performance is probably the major consideration,” Alderson told Rubin. He pitched at Triple-A last year. He’s pitching at Triple-A this year. His last outing was excellent. Let’s see how it goes.”
For Wheeler, it’s not a question of if, but when will he get called up?
Justin Silberman is a journalism and new media major at Towson University, located in Baltimore, and true Mets fan.