Zack Wheeler impressive in season debut after his unusual spring training originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Zack Wheeler shook off some first-inning rust to complete nearly five innings in an economical season debut. It was a near scoreless outing.
Wheeler pitched 4⅔ innings, not allowing a run until giving up a solo shot to Brandon Nimmo, the final hitter he faced. He threw 65 pitches, coming out for the fifth after throwing 59. He picked up two quick outs before Nimmo lined one into the right-field seats to put the Mets up 1-0.
There was a lot of attention on Wheeler’s first regular-season start because he did not face big-league hitters at all in spring training. He was slowed in camp by an illness and ended up pitching in just one game, an intrasquad game against Phillies minor-leaguers on April 2. He was scheduled to face the Blue Jays that day but the plan changed because heavy rain was in the forecast.
When the Phils completed their spring training schedule, Wheeler stayed behind to face hitters in Clearwater the next day, April 7.
“All the guys have had somewhat unusual paths but his has been the strangest,” manager Joe Girardi said pregame. “He got the flu in spring training, was down for three days, was interrupted. He hasn’t necessarily thrown in a real game yet, but there’s a lot of teams dealing with this.”
Wheeler struck out three and allowed just two hits — the Nimmo home run and a Pete Alonso single in the fourth inning. His fastball averaged 95 mph in the first competitive game he’s pitched in 196 days.
Wheeler hit two batters during a laborious, 27-pitch first inning but stranded the bases loaded with a three-pitch, swinging strikeout of Robinson Cano.
From there, Wheeler locked in, needing only 37 pitches to record his final 12 outs from Cano’s strikeout through Nimmo’s homer.
Wheeler would have started for the Phillies on opening day had he not been behind schedule. He nearly won the National League Cy Young award in 2021, finishing second in voting to Corbin Burnes, who had better rate stats but a much smaller workload. Burnes recorded 139 fewer outs than Wheeler.
One cycle through, the Phillies’ starting rotation has a 2.96 ERA and 0.78 WHIP with 24 strikeouts and four walks in 24⅓ innings.
Wheeler lines up to make his next start on Sunday in Miami.