CHICAGO - Jacob deGrom likely won’t pitch in next Tuesday’s All-Star Game and is not even sure if he’ll actually travel to Colorado which means the National League will need to find a new starting pitcher.
In step Zack Wheeler?
Wheeler ends his first half on Wednesday at Wrigley Field, which provides plenty of rest to start on Tuesday. DeGrom is scheduled to start Sunday for the Mets and is weary to pitch two days later after battling some injuries this season.
DeGrom has been baseball’s best pitcher this season as he leads the majors in ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts per nine innings pitched. But Wheeler so far has been the NL’s second-best pitcher. He said Sunday that he didn’t think about starting the game as “just being there is enough.”
But J.T. Realmuto, who has caught 11 of Wheeler’s 17 starts, thinks it would be a thrill for his teammate.
“Starting? That would be awesome,” said Realmuto, who is a an All-Star for a third time. “I really hope that works out for him. If deGrom doesn’t do it, I don’t see why Wheeler wouldn’t. That would be awesome. That would be great for him. What an experience. No one, in my opinion, is more deserving than him.”
Just six Phillies pitchers - Robin Roberts, Curt Simmons, Steve Carlton, Terry Mullholland, Curt Schilling, and Roy Halladay - have started the All-Star Game with Halladay being the most recent in 2011. The Phillies have not had a starter at any position since Chase Utley in 2014.
Wheeler leads all major-league players - not just pitchers - in WAR (5.5) and leads all pitchers in strikeouts (139) and innings (114) while posting the fourth-best ERA (2.05) in the National League. Since 1950, just two Phillies starters - Simmons in 1952 and Chris Short in 1964 - have finished the first half with an ERA of 2.05 or better.
“It’s an amazing honor,” manager Joe Girardi said of the possibility of Wheeler starting. “I know Jacob deGrom has been great and Kevin Gausman is great but so has Zack Wheeler. Brandon Woodruff is great. But Wheeler has pitched to me as well as anyone.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will make his decision next week when he announces the NL’s lineup on the eve of the game. San Francisco’s Gausman, like deGrom, is scheduled to start on Sunday which could keep him from pitching Tuesday. Woodruff, Milwaukee’s top pitcher, has a better ERA (1.87) and WHIP (0.807) than Wheeler but is on track to pitch on Saturday.
“For me, I don’t think it’s smart to pitch in the All-Star Game,” deGrom told reporters Sunday in New York. “I’ve been a little beat up in the first half and missed a few starts that I wish I wouldn’t have missed so I don’t think it makes sense for me to throw in it.”
The National League players voted five starting pitchers - deGrom, Woodruff, Gausman, San Diego’s Yu Darvish, and Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes - into the game. Wheeler, since he didn’t make the top five, was one of three pitchers then added by the league to the game.
“Really? What happened,” said Realmuto, who was voted an All-Star by his peers. “That’s shocking. That’s surprising.”
Wheeler’s NL teammates didn’t vote him into the All-Star Game, but he might be starting for them next Tuesday in Colorado. If so, he would be replacing his former teammate.
“Just in passing we chat here and there, making fun of each others’ last start or something like that and maybe just asking each other a certain tip that they think about at a certain point in their windup or something like that,” said Wheeler, who pitched five seasons for the Mets before signing before last season with the Phillies. “Just watching him over the years has definitely helped me. We just ask each other questions sometimes, try to help each other out.”