Update: Wheeler has inflammation in his shoulder, got a cortisone shot, and will miss one start, says MetsBlog.com, but there is no structural damage. Deep breath, Mets fans. No need to worry unless pain persists.
Original Post: News came forth today that Zack Wheeler will miss his next start due to soreness in his clavicle, causing the Mets fanbase to generally react like this. After all, Wheeler is one of the primary cornerstones of the Mets rebuilding project and the organization is betting a large portion of their future on Wheeler's right arm, and the clavicle that supports it.
But what amount of concern is appropriate? Should this news be merely a blip on the radar of perturbment or a cause for all-out panic?
Any time a pitching prospect is missing a start, it's worth keeping an eye on. The fact that it's arm-related makes it worth a small bit of concern. The fact that it's shoulder-related is even more worrisome, although in this case, Wheeler's discomfort isn't exactly in his shoulder, but slightly closer to the neck in his collarbone. Still, it's not an area where you want pain.
But the Mets are saying that they are erring on the side of caution with Wheeler, points out Michael Baron of MetsBlog.com, and they're wise in doing so. The Mets don't want to take any chances with their future, so whether it's pain, soreness, discomfort or a discolored skintag on his clavicle, they're going to get it checked out before letting Wheeler pitch again.
Concern would be greater if Wheeler hadn't turned things around in his last few starts. Wheeler's first five starts looked like this:
But his last three starts have looked like this:
The command in the first five starts was a concern, and if he had been complaining of discomfort at that point, it would have been reasonable to think that whatever was wrong with his clavicle was affecting his mechanics and thus his command. Any time an injury affects mechanics, it's bad.
But Wheeler's last three starts were about as well as you can pitch in the Pacific Coast League, and with just one walk in each, clearly Wheeler straightened out whatever mechanical flaw he had before his discomfort set in. The end result is a relatively comfortable determination that his injury and his early season struggles are unrelated. That's good news for the Mets.
The silver lining here is that skipping a start will limit Wheeler's innings total for the season, something the Mets were likely going to do anyway. It should also push his arrival to the majors back, even if he misses just the one start, and with the Mets and their fan base getting more and more eager to promote Wheeler with every strong start, slowing them down may not be the worst thing in the world.
Of course, no one knows exactly how concerned to be until we hear from Wheeler's doctors. We'll be able to gauge this much better by tomorrow, but for now, the need for outright panic is unnecessary. If he goes on to miss more than just the one start, however, the concern will become apropos.