The Phillies announced Wednesday that righty Zack Wheeler underwent a “right middle fingernail resection procedure” last week. He’s expected to be ready to go in time for Spring Training.
The minor surgical procedure was performed not only in hopes of repairing a fluky late-season injury in which Wheeler almost lost his middle fingernail completely after catching it on a zipper, but to correct some chronic issues with the nail. NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Corey Seidman notes that Wheeler has had minor issues with that nail dating back to high school. Cracked nails certainly don’t sound like a major issue, of course, but such maladies can impact a pitcher’s ability to grip the ball — particularly on breaking pitches.
If the fingernail was a major impediment for Wheeler this season, it certainly didn’t show in his results. The 30-year-old right-hander, who signed a five-year deal worth $118MM last offseason, made 11 starts for the Phils and racked up 71 innings with a 2.92 ERA, 3.22 FIP and career-best 55.9 percent ground-ball rate. Wheeler’s strikeout rate dipped, though that was due largely to his incorporation of a sinker/two-seamer that dramatically improved his ground-ball rate.
There was some concern late in the season that the aforementioned freak injury might cause Wheeler to lose his entire fingernail and possibly end his season. He rallied and returned to the mound to give the Phils three more solid starts down the stretch, however, allowing nine runs on 19 hits and seven walks with 17 strikeouts through 21 frames after that point. Wheeler is still owed $96.5MM over the final four seasons of his contract in Philadelphia.