Since undergoing Tommy John surgery in March of 2015, Zack Wheeler has yet to throw an inning in the major leagues. General Manager Sandy Alderson told reporters during the Winter Meetings that Wheeler may be a candidate to throw out of the bullpen upon his return to the Mets this season, Maria Guardado of NJ.com reports.
"It's one of the reasons to think about the 'pen. He throws hard. Command's always been a little bit of an issue. Coming out of the 'pen, take advantage of the power arm and try to minimize whatever lack of control may exist either fundamentally because that's who he is or because of the layoff.
“There's no reason for us to say, 'Oh he's got to be a starter. Now, he may feel that way himself. But it may be that coming back after two years, he's better off pitching out of the 'pen. He might have to be careful. He might not be able to pitch back-to-back. It might have to be two innings at a time. These are all hypothetical at the moment, but I don't see any reason to just eliminate the possibility."
Wheeler was once consider the second-most promising Mets pitching prospect behind Matt Harvey, but due to his control issues and his delayed recovery from surgery, Wheeler can be seen as a bullpen arm with relatively little outcry from the fan base or the media. While the Mets do have Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman to possibly take Wheeler’s spot in the rotation, the team may look to add another starting pitcher to allow for some additional depth.
Of course, Alderson is simply speculating here, and Wheeler could come into the spring looking lights out, with no issues whatsoever. Alderson is quite adept at getting certain narratives out into the media and, perhaps, is trying to diffuse the perception that the Mets are looking for relief help by suggesting that he could move one of his young stud pitchers into the bullpen.
Relief pitching is what has been floated as what the Mets are looking for as a return in a much-rumored Jay Bruce trade.