Zack Wheeler is expected to be ready for spring training after he had surgery earlier this month to repair the fingernail he ripped in September while stepping into a pair of jeans.
The Phillies said Wheeler had a right middle fingernail resection procedure on Oct. 12 in Atlanta. Wheeler has dealt with fingernail issues since he was a minor leaguer, but he said it never ripped the way it did last month.
“It’s just one of those stupid things where I tripped a little bit, lost my balance, and my jeans just kind of yanked out of my hand,” Wheeler said. “And my nail was already lifted off of the skin bed. So it was really easy just to catch it. Just ripped it a little more off.”
Wheeler, 30, is expected to slot into next season’s starting rotation behind Aaron Nola and in front of Zach Eflin and Spencer Howard. The Phillies either have to add a starting pitcher this offseason or look internally. Ranger Suarez, Cole Irvin, Adonis Medina, and JoJo Romero could be options.
Wheeler returned to the mound a week after his injury and pitched 7 ⅓ strong innings with a fake nail on his bruised middle finger. He made three starts after the injury and finished the season with a 2.92 ERA and 6.7 strikeouts per nine innings.
He was the first Phillies pitcher ever to allow three runs or fewer in each of his first 10 career starts with the team. Wheeler this season allowed just three home runs, the fewest by any pitcher who pitched at least 70 innings.
In 2018 and 2019, Wheeler averaged 8.9 strikeouts per innings with the Mets. This season, he seemed willing to trade strikeouts for early weak contact. His ground ball rate (55.9%) was the third highest in baseball, and his hard-hit percentage (23.1%) was the second lowest.
Wheeler signed with the Phillies before last season for $118 million after making his mark as a hard-throwing strikeout pitcher. His fastball was the fifth hardest in baseball this season, but Wheeler showed that he’s more than just a power arm.
“It was different, but you go out there every five days and make your starts,” Wheeler said of his season. “The goal is to get in and out of there with quick innings, go deep into games. I was pretty successful in doing that most of the year. There’s a couple hiccups here and there, but I feel like I pitched well. There’s a couple mistakes I feel like every game that happened that I kind of looked back on. All the rest were just fine. It’s one of those things you have to minimize your mistakes.”