Mets Rumors: Zack Wheeler may begin 2017 in bullpen

After setbacks in recovery, Mets mull option of being more conservative with Zack Wheeler.

One interesting bit of information that came out yesterday for the Mets pitching staff going forward involved Zack Wheeler. According to Anthony DiComo, the Mets have had internal discussions about using Wheeler out of the bullpen to start the 2017 season.

At this point, it makes a ton of sense. First, Wheeler’s timetable for recovery was set conservatively at 14 months after surgery. However, he could not make his way back as the summer progressed as setbacks arose. Wheeler pitched only one inning in St. Lucie during his rehab assignment before he had to be shut down again.

It seems like so long ago, but the last time we saw Wheeler in a Mets uniform, he was humming through the summer months before tapering off in September. Still there was a feeling that Wheeler was only going to build off his 2014 season where he went 11-11 with a 3.54 ERA and 187 strikeouts in 185.1 innings pitched.

Now with the long span away, it speaks volumes of Wheeler’s ability to recover. With other options having emerged since, there’s a luxury that did not exist before. Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo proved last year that they can be viable options in a pinch until the Mets feel comfortable working Wheeler back into the rotation.

Once upon a time, Wheeler was the most hyped pitching prospect in the organization. In 2014, he started to trust his secondary pitches. Add in a fastball that averages around 95 and seemed to locate better as he moved on, Wheeler looked destined to stick in the Mets rotation.

Now the big question is obviously what his velocity will be like upon his return. If his career track is any indication, then Wheeler should be able to adapt just fine as long as he stays healthy. We all remember the potential Wheeler carried and the flashes he showed over two years ago.

It’s been a hard road back, but the Mets are in a better position now to wait on Wheeler and to give him this reduced role to start the year should they follow through.

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