The New York Mets planned to give top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler his first career Grapefruit League start today in their game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Unfortunately for the team, Wheeler mildly strained his oblique while hitting in the batting cage before the game, and was a late scratch.
New York, as expected, went the precautionary route in dealing with the Wheeler injury. While the injury appears to be very mild, there is no reason to risk Wheeler’s seemingly bright future on a spring training game.
This would have been Wheeler’s first chance to face Cardinals right fielder Carlos Beltran, the man he was traded for during the 2011 season. Beltran was sent from New York to San Francisco for Wheeler and cash, and signed with the Cardinals last off-season. Wheeler was reportedly excited by the opportunity, and still got a chance to meet the former Met before the game.
Beltran has a checkered past with Mets’ fans. After signing with the team as a top free agent in 2005, he had an up-and-down tenure in New York. Looking at strike three in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS (the team’s last playoff game) certainly did not help Beltran’s popularity.
Strangely enough, Beltran was also the player whose hit ball the umpires called foul last year in Johan Santana’s “no-hitter”.
Wheeler is likely to start the season with Triple-A Las Vegas, but may get another chance to face Beltran soon. The young pitcher’s talent already has fans and the team excited about his future – a future that will hopefully help both move on from the Carlos Beltran era.