Zack Wheeler’s right middle finger was covered Friday afternoon with a bandage and the pitcher’s season remained uncertain as the Phillies were waiting to learn if his fingernail needs to be removed after he ripped it Wednesday while putting on a pair of jeans.
“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 was scratched Thursday from his start on Saturday in Miami and the Phillies hoped he could pitch Monday. But that now seems unlikely. He hasn’t thrown a baseball since injuring his nail and could be cleared Saturday to simply play catch.
Wheeler said his fingernail has been a problem since high school and cost him to miss time in the minor leagues. But it never ripped the way it did Wednesday.
It “bled pretty bad and was really swollen,” manager Joe Girardi said. The Phillies have contacted hand surgeons and specialists to determine if the nail can be saved.
If the nail has to be removed, Wheeler would be pressed for time with the final game of the regular season just two weeks from Sunday. Wheeler uses his middle finger for every pitch and it would be hard to imagine his being able to compete without a fingernail.
“I’m going to do everything possible to pitch this year. Honestly, I don’t know,” Wheeler said. “I guess we’ll wait and see. My goal is to get there as soon as I possibly can. Whether it hurts a little bit, or it’s not all the way healed, doesn’t matter. We’re in a playoff run. And I’m trying to get back out there and pitch.”
Wheeler joined the Phillies last December on a $118 million contract and has been excellent. He has a 2.47 ERA through his first eight starts, pairing with Aaron Nola to form one of the National League’s top rotation tandems. The Phillies have been besieged by baseball’s worst bullpen, so they need their rotation to carry them this month if they are to make the postseason. Losing Wheeler, even if he misses just one start, is a blow.
“Those guys aren’t replaceable,” Girardi said.
Wheeler said the fingernail looks normal during the offseason but then “pops about halfway off” during spring training. He’s learned to deal with it and coats the nail with hardening polish to strengthen it. But that didn’t help him Wednesday night after the team arrived in Miami and he tried to put on a pair of jeans. Now, he doesn’t know when he’ll pitch again.
“I just lost my balance a little bit and my foot was going down while I was pulling my pants up,” Wheeler said. “And so, the lip of the belt buckle area kind of just caught my nail because my nail was already raised. It was easy just to catch it and just rip it a little bit. That’s what happened.”
“The other day was unfortunate and I’m pissed off that that happened. I’ve had a couple close calls in the past where it almost got caught on things and it scared the crap out of me, and the other day, I guess it finally happened.”
Neil Walker was designated for assignment to make room for Ronald Torreyes, who joined the team Friday afternoon. Girardi said the Phillies added Torreyes because they needed someone who could play both the infield and centerfield. ... Girardi said Roman Quinn did not have a “great day” on Thursday, as he remains in the concussion protocol, but he had a “good day” on Friday, and “we think we’re back on course.” Quinn could join the team next week. ... Adam Morgan was activated off the injured list, Connor Brogdon was optioned to triple A, and Ramon Rosso joined the team as the extra man for Friday’s doubleheader. ... Spencer Howard will face Marlins right-hander Jose Urena on Saturday night.