Tommy John surgery likely for Mets’ Zack Wheeler

I had just written about the possibility of the New York Mets needing to keep and not trade starting pitcher Dillon Gee, even though he had been moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen. I mentioned that there may be an issue with starter Zack Wheeler.

Originally picked for the starting rotation were Wheeler, Jon Niese, Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Bartolo Colon. Now it appears that Gee will be needed in place of Wheeler.

Wheeler, who complained of elbow soreness last week, recently underwent an MRI. He’d had two clean MRI’s over the offseason, after some soreness last season, leading the Mets to be optimistic about the MRI results.

Unfortunately the Mets were overly optimistic as the results are now in. Wheeler has been diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament. He’ll be seeking a second opinion but nine times out of ten that means he is destined for Tommy John surgery.

The Mets pushed Wheeler hard in 2014. At only 24 years old, Wheeler had 13 starts in which he threw 110 pitches or more in 2014, according to Newsday’s Marc Carig. That was more than any other pitcher in baseball under the age of 24. The next closest player of the same age had just six starts in which that number of pitches were thrown.

Still the Mets maintain that they did not push Wheeler too hard, although most people seem to disagree. It appears that Wheeler’s elbow disagrees with the team as well.

His ligament is now torn and there’s an extremely high chance that he will be going under the procedure that so many other have in the past few seasons.

According to 11 pitchers underwent the procedure in 2010. That number skyrocketed to 24 in 2011 and to an astonishing 46 in 2012. The number dropped to 25 in 2013 and 29 in 2014 but those numbers are much too high. So many pitchers have undergone the surgery in this decade that it’s been called an epidemic.

So far in 2015 lists six pitchers who have undergone the surgery, including Wheeler’s teammate reliever Josh Edgin, whose choice to go under the knife was announced just Sunday. 

There are others too who have needed season ending surgery this season other than Tommy John surgery. The Cleveland Indians have lost Gavin Floyd for the season to a right elbow fracture for example, and it is unclear how long into the season the Philadelphia Phillies’ will have pitcher Cliff Lee before he needs surgery on a torn flexor tendon in his elbow.

We’ll have to wait to find out what the final decision is for Wheeler but that sad part is, that having to get a second opinion never brings good news.

  • Another one? Jeez. You just wrote about how this is a plague. I can’t believe it

    • Jen Rainwater

      It’s to the point of ridiculous! There was just a Mets pitcher who announced his surgery yesterday! YESTERDAY! Something needs to be done to help these pitchers. In Wheeler’s case it seems he was overworked last year from what I have gathered but the number of TJS at such young ages – many have had two by the time they turn 30 – is just wrong! It’s so sad!! 🙁

      • And the Mets were really looking forward to showcasing their starting pitching this year, cause it was supposed to be intact. This is sad.

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