Wheeler was scheduled to start Friday night against the Pirates. Left-hander Bailey Falter will start instead.
How serious is Wheeler’s injury? It is a critical question. The Phillies cannot afford to lose their ace for an extended period of time. They are just 40 games away from potentially clinching their first postseason berth in over a decade. They need him healthy, especially in the postseason.
“He felt, no way, he could take the ball tomorrow and go out there and pitch,” Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. “But when we talked about it, we also felt that we’d much rather beat this thing and not have him go out there and have him continue to deal with this the rest of the season. So, for us, when we sat in the office today, it was more, well, you know, ‘I can do it.’ But we just think sometimes you have to take it out of the person’s hands. We just think it’s best to close this now.
“I still think there’s a long way to go and I’d rather Zack Wheeler hit this … and be in a position where he’s as close to 100 percent as possible at this time of the year.”
Dombrowski said he believes Wheeler will miss only his next two scheduled starts. He said Wheeler could start Sept. 6 against the Marlins, when he is eligible to be activated by the IL. (The IL shift is retroactive to Monday.)
Wheeler is 11-7 with a 3.07 ERA in 23 starts this season. He was 0-2 with a 7.94 ERA in his last two, allowing 10 runs on 14 hits and five walks in 11 1/3 innings.
Wheeler said he felt good after each start.
“I can’t say it has anything to do with the last two outings,” Dombrowski said. “You come to this time of year with just about any player or pitcher, and there’s something that’s not 100 percent. I dealt with Zack for a few years. And just like a lot of guys, he dealt with some of these same issues last year. It’s one of those things that pitchers deal with. That’s how I would describe this. He handled this like probably all the pitchers on our staff. It was one of those over the last little bit that it might have bothered him a bit more.”
Wheeler’s four-seam fastball has averaged 95.9 mph this season, down from 97.2 mph last year.
Dombrowski said no MRI exam is scheduled because the Phillies believe they have a handle on the situation.
“He’s just a little soft in an area,” Dombrowski said. “These guys get treated for these things all the time. He may have been treated for it all year for all I know. All of last year too. It’s not one of these things that just — boom — it came out of the blue. It was there, just like it was with a lot of guys. Maybe now there is a little more.
“He is not happy. I think he would prefer [have] took the ball But he also understands that it’s probably the smart thing to do.”