Zack Wheeler considers it a compliment his name has surfaced in recent Mets trade rumblings.
Remember, this is the same pitcher who missed the second half of last season with weakness in his right arm — after a two-year rehab from Tommy John surgery — and was then demoted to Triple-A Las Vegas to begin 2018.
But his emergence, particularly over the last month, has transformed Wheeler into an asset heading toward the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
In six June starts, Wheeler pitched to a 3.26 ERA, hitting 99 mph on the radar gun and three times completing seven innings. The Mets are unlikely to trade Jacob deGrom or Noah Syndergaard, according to club sources, but are entertaining offers on the 28-year-old Wheeler, who can become a free agent after the 2019 season.
“Obviously teams want you for a reason,” said Wheeler, who is scheduled to pitch Tuesday night in Toronto. “I like it here and I don’t want to be traded, but it’s baseball — trades happen and I know especially in years getting closer to your free agency, it’s more than likely going to happen. I don’t wish it will happen, but at the same time I know it’s a possibility.”
With the Mets buried in the playoff race, it would be easy for Wheeler to desire a trade. But there is still something about a big stage that appeals to him.
“I just like New York, man,” he said. “I like New York and if you are winning, it’s a lot of fun there. We are not doing that well right now. Missing those two years, they went to the playoffs those two years I was gone, so that kind of always eats at me, and I want to get back there with this team and that’s kind of my focus.
“Maybe you do some stuff differently, but I think we have the core here that could lead us that way, give us that direction.”
The Mets have witnessed growth over a short stretch. In spring training, team officials were unhappy with Wheeler’s work ethic and approach to the point he was optioned to Las Vegas, when a spot in the major league rotation appeared imminent.
Wheeler’s banishment lasted only one start — he returned to the Mets after Seth Lugo was moved into the bullpen, with Jason Vargas on the disabled list.
“I hate to use the words ‘growing up’ or ‘maturity,’ but he is going about his business as a solid, seasoned big-league pitcher,” pitching coach Dave Eiland said.
That has meant adding side sessions between starts — which Wheeler had previously avoided — and committing to his plus-fastball.
“It’s like I told him a while back, ‘You have 95, 96 [mph] in there in the tank, why [are] you settling for 91?’ ” Eiland said. “Let it go. As long as he is not coming out of his delivery, he is staying in his delivery, in his control, then why you leaving something in the tank?
“He’s engaged, he is committing to every pitch, he is working between starts. He is getting the most of his raw ability, but it starts with his mind.”
Wheeler spent six months before the season giving himself daily injections to increase the bone strength in his right arm. To Wheeler, there was never any doubt he could be successful, if he remained healthy.
“I have been pitching better of late and eliminating that one [bad] inning,” Wheeler said. “Last year I was doing well into June and then it started going downhill. I really don’t pay any attention to that. I pay attention to when I was healthy last year and I was doing well. This year I am doing OK and I am healthy.”
Source: Read Full Article