Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Phillies place right-hander Zack Wheeler on injured list with forearm tendinitis

The Philadelphia Phillies have placed ace right-hander Zack Wheeler on the 15-day injured list with right forearm tendinitis, the team announced Thursday. The injured list stint is backdated to Monday, so the earliest Wheeler can be activated is Sept. 6. Lefty Bailey Falter is expected to start in Wheeler’s place on Friday.

Wheeler, 32, struggled in his past two starts, allowing 10 runs and 19 baserunners in 11 1/3 innings. However, his velocity was where it always sits and there was no indication he was injured. Wheeler missed close to two full seasons with Tommy John surgery from 2015-16 but has been among the game’s most durable starters the past few years, ranking third in innings since 2018.

The Phillies called up lefty Cristopher Sánchez to make a spot start on Wednesday and he was solid, allowing three runs in six innings. The spot start was made to give the team’s regular starters extra rest because Philadelphia has been “leaning on them quite a bit,” manager Rob Thomson told Sánchez and Falter are the top candidates to fill in for Wheeler.

Zack Wheeler

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Even while struggling in his past two starts, Wheeler has been excellent this season, throwing 138 innings with a 3.07 ERA and very good strikeout (26.7 percent) and walk (5.9 percent) rates. The reigning NL Cy Young runner-up leads all pitchers with 14.5 WAR over the past two seasons, well ahead of Braves lefty Max Fried, who is No. 2 on the list at 12.5 WAR.

If there is one silver lining to Wheeler’s injury, it’s that it comes at a time when Philadelphia’s schedule softens up, at least on paper. The Phillies will play their next 19 games against the Diamondbacks, Giants, Marlins, Nationals, Pirates and Reds. Those six teams have a combined .421 winning percentage, or a 94-game loss pace over a 162-game schedule.

The Phillies enter Thursday in the second National League wild-card spot. They are eight games behind the Braves, and two games up on the Padres, and 3 1/2 games up on the Brewers for a postseason spot in general. Aaron Nola, Kyle Gibson, Noah Syndergaard and Ranger Suárez will anchor the rotation while Wheeler is sidelined.

MLB and the MLBPA agreed to extend the minimum injured list stay to 15 days for pitchers to avoid roster manipulation. The rule took effect in May after being delayed by the pandemic. Position players still have a 10-day injured list.

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