Mets righty Zack Wheeler is set for a visit to orthopedist Dr. James Andrews after experiencing discomfort in his surgically-repaired right elbow, Mike Puma of the New York Post was among those to tweet. It seems that the flare-up occurred after his most recent rehab outing.
Though it’s still far from clear whether Wheeler has a new injury with which to contend, the news makes it tough to imagine that he’ll return to New York this season. The prized 26-year-old had seemed primed to make a late-season return from Tommy John surgery, potentially giving the Mets a boost down the stretch.
At this point, the greater concern lies in the long run. Wheeler last pitched in the majors in 2014, when he wrapped up a stellar campaign for the Mets. He had been brought back slowly from his UCL replacement procedure, but attempts to ramp things up toward a major league return have not gone according to plan. Now, a dreaded trip to the famed Dr. Andrews may help to ascertain whether there’s a new problem to contend with.
The expectation has long been that Wheeler would constitute a major part of a loaded Mets pitching staff full of frontline starters. But while Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom have continued to thrive, though the former has pitched through a bone spur, but some cracks have formed elsewhere. Though Steven Matz has been productive in his first full MLB campaign, he has dealt with some inconsistency while battling his own elbow bone spur. And Matt Harvey has undergone a shocking downfall, struggling badly before undergoing season-ending surgery.
Wheeler certainly deserves mention in that company. Over his first 285 1/3 innings at the big league level, from 2013-14, Wheeler owns a 3.50 ERA with 8.5 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9. Returning to that form may once have seemed a foregone conclusion, given the prevalence of Tommy John surgery, but the fact is that the surgery isn’t always successful. Indeed, as MLBTR contributor Bradley Woodrum has explained, a prior TJ procedure “strongly predicts a second surgery.”