On Monday, the Mets learned that promising young starter Zack Wheeler has a fully torn elbow ligament, and will miss the entire season. Today it was revealed that the 24-year-old workhorse pitched through pain last year, thanks to a partially torn tendon in that same right elbow.
Newsday revealed just how messed up the inside of Wheeler's elbow is (yesterday's exam also revealed bone spurs), as the Mets come closer to sending him for Tommy John surgery.
Everyone is adamant that pitching with the torn tendon did not contribute to Wheeler's UCL tear. But: sending out a pitcher as young as Wheeler, to throw as much and as often as Wheeler did last season, on a team as crappy as the Mets were, when you know he's suffering chronic elbow pain? Doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
- Was seventh in the NL in pitches thrown
- Was first in the NL in pitches thrown per plate appearance
- Was first in the NL in pitches thrown per inning
When Wheeler was scratched from his start last week, the Mets called it "tenderness" and "tendinitis," and said he had dealt with it last season—pitching through pain thanks to the use of anti-inflammatory drugs, including cortisone shots. (Once again, if your 24 year-old-pitcher requires corticosteroids injected directly into his elbow to keep taking the mound, maybe he doesn't need to keep taking the mound.) The pain lingered through the offseason, during which Wheeler underwent a couple rounds of platelet-rich plasma therapy. It didn't help.
Mets GM Sandy Alderson said that resting Wheeler last year or reducing his workload would not have spared his UCL—that ligament was going to tear inevitably, according to team doctors. And he laughed at the idea that the Mets, who have a host of exciting young pitchers, would knowingly put one at risk.
"Let me just ask, why would we treat somebody like Matt] Harvey with the kind of caution that we did and then throw somebody else under the bus — somebody of essentially equal value to us as an organization?" Alderson asked. "That wouldn't make any sense. I understand people can debate the number of pitches and the number of innings and this and that. We simply wouldn't treat two guys that differently."
Wheeler's agent said he "had no issues with how the Mets handled Zack," and that the pitcher chose to play through the pain of his bone spurs and torn tendon last year rather than get surgery that would put him out four to six months. Now, he'll have a full calendar year to fix and rest everything.