Zack Wheeler’s 2020 season is on hold because of the most Philadelphia Phillies injury possible.
The most concerning matter was described in a somewhat cringe-worthy way by writer Anthony Castrovince: “Wheeler lost his balance while putting on his jeans Wednesday night [Sept. 9], and [his right middle fingernail] caught the lip of the belt buckle area and partially lifted off the nail bed, causing blood and soreness.”
Hmm. This sounds like a skinny jeans problem, but maybe others lose their balance putting on loose pants. That matter is still apparently under investigation.
In any event, the Phillies have consulted specialists on this injury, and Wheeler was scratched from his scheduled start Saturday. The earliest the right-hander now may pitch is Sept. 14, assuming a good bullpen session Saturday, saving the nail, and a reduction of soreness.
Apparently this nail was already somewhat compromised, and…oh, who cares? This is another annoyance Phillies and their fans have to endure beyond not yet having J.T. Realmuto signed to an extension of his contract. A fellow fan texted me about Wheeler’s news with a one-word evaluation: “Dope.”
This was literally the last thing the Phillies needed as they started their first seven-game series in 90 years, a series featuring two doubleheaders in three days. Wheeler had compiled a 4-0 record and a 2.47 ERA in eight starts this season, his first in Philly. The ERA+ metric says Zack Wheeler is 89 percent better than his league-average peer.
To return to my fellow Phillies sufferer’s evaluation of this matter, though, maybe he has a point. Wheeler called his mishap a “stupid thing” himself. Beyond that, however, this nail problem has been “thing” since his junior year in high school. Wheeler’s pitch grip causes his middle fingernail to partially detach “virtually every year.”
It sort of begs the question of whether the Phillies were aware of this issue before they signed him to a huge contract in the off-season. Wheeler’s early results clearly say it might have been worth the risk, but this is a matter that may not be susceptible to a fix before the season ends.
At the very least, though, with two apparent “bullpen games” now scheduled with the Marlins – the first was lost – the Philadelphia Phillies might consider asking Zack Wheeler to consider an addendum to his contract. Maybe he should be denied the most stylish jeans available for the good of all concerned.