Mets Diamond Notes: Wheeler Dominates in Triple-A, Collins Say Santana is Still Healthy

By Matt Musico

It was a shaky start in the first inning of his second start with the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons, but Zack Wheeler settled into quite the groove after allowing two hits and a run to the Scranton/Wilkes Barre Yankees. What kind of groove did he get into? He retired the next 14 of 15 hitters he faced, and ended up throwing 6 innings and allowing only that 1 run on 2 hits, while walking 3 and striking out 4.

Between his time with the Binghamton Mets in Double-A and now Buffalo, the Mets top pitching prospect has now racked up just shy of 138 innings pitched for the season. Last month, GM Sandy Alderson said the organization will shut down the 22-year-old once he hits 150 IP, in an effort to protect his arm. With the pace he’s currently at, Wheeler has about two more starts for the Bisons before he takes a breather and sets his eyes on 2013. It looks like the starting rotation for New York is set for next season (Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey, Jonathon Niese, Matt Harvey, Dillon Gee), so the organization doesn’t feel a need to rush Wheeler to the Bigs in 2013, and he’ll probably be in the same boat that Harvey was, not getting the call before September unless there is a specific need for him.

This is the right move with Wheeler, building up the stress on his arm gradually each year, going from 58 IP in 2010, to 115 IP in 2011, and now 150 IP this season. By the time 2012 is through, he’ll have approximately 323 innings of minor league baseball under his belt, and he’s yet to turn 23-years-old. Some extra fine tuning with the Bisons next season will be the finishing touches on one of the most hyped pitching prospects since Generation K.

Once again, Terry Collins spoke to the media about Johan Santana‘s health and reiterated that his southpaw is just fine, and is scheduled to make his start on Friday in Washington against the Nationals. His first start back from the disabled list over the weekend didn’t go well, as he tied the shortest outing of his career. He has had some solid starts since his June 1st no-hitter, but overall, it hasn’t been great. In 44 innings pitched, spanning 9 starts, since his masterpiece for the history books, Santana has compiled a 7.98 ERA.

A lot of people are getting after the health of his ankle and arm, but it’s a simple fact that he’s struggling with his command. When he arrived in 2008 with the Mets, he was throwing his fastball at an average speed of 91.2 mph. In 2012, he’s been throwing it at an average of 88.4 mph. Though that’s not a huge discrepancy and his changeup speed has also decreased 3 mph to keep the difference in speed the same, it’s makes his fastball become a lot more hittable. There is speculation about his decreased velocity, but no one knows the long-term effects from the surgery he had, so maybe Santana just won’t be throwing 90 mph anymore. He’ll have to take a page out of Pedro Martinez‘s book from the end of his career and focus hard on the location of his pitches to remain successful.

Apparently, the early season struggles of Ike Davis (.217/.282/.425) is still concerning to some people in the front office, according to MLB Trade Rumors. Davis has been an all-or-nothing kind of hitter in 2012 (104 strikeouts, 20 home runs in 374 at-bats), and Joel Sherman of the New York Post said that not everyone in the front office feels the Mets will be perennial contenders with Ike at first base. Lucas Duda has been playing some first base as well as the outfield in Triple-A, and speculation says that there may be a preference of some executives to move Duda to the infield because he can supply the same power as Davis, but is a better all-around hitter.