The oblique injury that New York Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler suffered yesterday that kept him from pitching in the Mets grapefruit league game against the St. Louis Cardinals was certainly not a part of the team’s plans for their top pitching prospect.
It will keep Wheeler off the mound for an extended period of time, and will likely take away any chance that Wheeler might have had of making the Mets’ starting rotation directly out of spring. His chances would have at least been in consideration following Wheeler’s first appearance this spring and the uncertainty surrounding the health of Johan Santana.
But Wheeler’s injury, unfortunate as it may be, is a good reminder of the vulnerability of pitchers, especially young ones. For close to a year, it’s been assumed that Wheeler will one day make it to the big leagues and be at the front of the Mets rotation. However, in baseball, especially with pitching, there are no guarantees. For instance, we all thought that we would get a good long look at Wheeler facing major league competition during the first few weeks of spring training, but now that won’t be happening because of this injury, which was suffered within hours of him taking the mound.
In the long run, this will probably be nothing more than a minor set back for Wheeler and the Mets. The team won’t rush its most valuable prospect back, and they will make sure he is completely healthy before sending him back to the mound, or making him participate in batting practice.
However, injuries can be tricky (especially oblique injuries), and there’s no telling how quickly Wheeler will recover and how he’ll be effected by it moving forward.
But, whether the injury lingers with Wheeler or ends up being just a minor set back, it’s a reminder that even with elite prospects like Wheeler, there is no such thing as a guarantee.