CLEARWATER, Fla. — Zack Wheeler is calling for a ceasefire.
After two days of slinging passive-aggressive insults with New York Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen, Wheeler put a stop to the back-and-forth Saturday before working out with Phillies pitchers and catchers at the Carpenter Complex.
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"He's taken a couple of things I said to heart, I guess, that I really didn't mean for him to do," Wheeler said. "But I don't care."
It all began Thursday, when Wheeler told a New York Post reporter that he “heard crickets” from the Mets when his agent gave them a chance to match the Phillies’ five-year, $118 million offer.
Van Wagenen fired back Friday, claiming Wheeler should be thankful to the Mets for helping him “parlay two good half-seasons over the last five years into $118 million.” The 29-year-old right-hander’s contract represented the third-largest free-agent deal in Phillies history, trailing Bryce Harper (13 years, $330 million) and Cliff Lee (five years, $120 million).
Wheeler posted a 3.77 ERA and averaged 8.7 strikeouts per nine innings in 126 career starts with the Mets, including a 2.66 ERA in the final two months of last season and a 1.68 mark after the All-Star break in 2018.
Asked if he was insulted by Van Wagenen's retort, Wheeler had no urge to continue the bickering.
"Take it with a grain of salt, I guess," he said. "It is what it is. I don't want to make this go on any further. I don't think it's meant to go on any further. We're two grown-ups here and we're battling like little kids. I'm happy to be here with this group of guys."
Wheeler credited the Mets' athletic trainers with devising a program that enabled him to make 60 starts over the last two seasons after a series of injuries early in his career that caused him to miss all of the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
"I really appreciate those guys and I really appreciate everything the Mets did for me," Wheeler said. "But I'm here with the Phillies now, and that's all that really matters."
Besides, Wheeler will have ample opportunity to end the quarrel. The Phillies and Mets play 19 times this season, beginning with an early-season series in New York from March 30 to April 1. If the schedule aligns, he could face his old team as many as six times.
“I don’t think I need any more motivation,” Wheeler said. “When you’re going up against a former team or something like that, you’re already going to have motivation. I don’t think it drives me any more. Like I said, I think it got blown up a little out of proportion. I don’t think it’s anything too serious.”