Zack Wheeler is happy with where he is right now.
That was his takeaway after the right-hander threw live batting practice on Wednesday. Wheeler threw roughly 25 pitches to a handful of minor leaguers, the first time he'd faced live hitting since last August.
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Doing the work of a pitching machine might not seem like much, but every step is a positive one for Wheeler, who hasn't pitched in a major league game since 2014.
“It felt good to be back out there and face batters,” Wheeler said. “It’s another step closer.”
It's especially good news after how the spring started for the 26-year-old. Wheeler threw his first bullpen session last month and felt tenderness in his surgically repaired right elbow, forcing the club to back him off and bringing into question whether, even two years later, Wheeler was right, physically.
But he's had no further setbacks and was back to throwing bullpen sessions prior to Wednesday's batting practice. He'll throw one more live batting practice before making his Grapefruit League debut next Friday, March 10.
The long layoff between MLB starts and his injury history guarantee that Wheeler won't approach 200 innings this season, and he with Robert Gsellman in tow, Wheeler could spend most or all of 2017 in the bullpen. The Mets, though, would probably just be happy to get out of 2017 with a healthy and happy Wheeler.
Right now, he's both.
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Weaver Dealing With Back Spasms
As the Cardinals made an ill-fated run at the final Wild Card spot last fall, two young pitchers -- Alex Reyes and Luke Weaver -- played roles in the playoff hunt.
This spring, Reyes has already fallen victim to Tommy John surgery, and Weaver's health is in question as well after he left an appearance Wednesday. Pitching in the eighth inning, Weaver recorded two outs before exiting with back spasms.
"He had a low back spasms," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny after the game. "So, it was better to get him out than try to pitch through it.
"We'll get him looked at and get him some medical attention and see where it is tomorrow."
It sounds fairly benign, but back spasms can vary in severity and have kept guys out for non-negligible periods of time before. Especially with a full season ahead of them, the Cardinals may play it safe with Weaver, even if it's at the expense of the right-hander being ready for Opening Day.
That would be a shame for Weaver, who, while a long shot, is a candidate to win a rotation spot out of spring after he posted a deceptively bad 5.70 ERA (his FIP was 4.33) in nine games in 2016. The 23-year-old is battling with Michael Wacha for the fifth spot.
More should be known on Weaver's outlook Thursday.
Prospect Kirilloff Needs Tommy John
“It hurts,” Twins general manager Thad Levine said Wednesday.
That about sums up the feeling after it was announced that Alex Kirilloff, the Twins' first-round pick, No. 15 overall, in the 2016 MLB Draft will have to undergo Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. The surgery will take place next week and will keep him out the entire regular season.
The good news is that Kirilloff is not a pitcher, he's an outfielder, so his recovery time will be shorter and the procedure will likely have less of an impact on his future than that of a hurler.
Still, big things were expected from the 19-year-old this year after he hit .306/.341/.454 in 55 games in the Rookie League after being drafted last year. Those hopes are now on hold for another year.
Quick Hits: According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, David Wright is going for a second opinion on his right shoulder. Wright was originally expected back in camp on Wednesday, but he actually stayed back in New York. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson announced Tuesday that Wright will be shut down from throwing for two weeks due to a right shoulder impingement. No matter what he hears from doctors, he's unlikely to be ready for the start of the season ... Hyun-Jin Ryu (adductor) said that he did not feel any pain during his bullpen on Wednesday. Ryu had been slated to throw a simulated game on Wednesday, but ended up throwing a bullpen session instead after feeling discomfort in the left adductor (leg). With a smooth bullpen under his belt, he is expected to pitch to live hitters on Saturday ... Jose Abreu is expected back in camp on Friday following the conclusion of his testimony in the federal trial of agent Bartolo Hernandez and trainer Julio Estrada. Initially, Abreu was expected to return to camp on Wednesday following his testimony -- Hernandez and Estrada face conspiracy and alien smuggling charges -- but that testimony will carry into Thursday now. Unless this stretches even longer, the slugger will travel back from Miami to Arizona on Thursday and should be in camp on Friday ... Sam Dyson (wrist) is scheduled to throw simulated games on Thursday and Sunday. Dyson sprained his right wrist in a fall over the weekend, but an MRI came back negative and the Rangers don't sound concerned ... Nate Jones left Wednesday's Cactus League game against the Diamondbacks due to a bruised right knee. Jones was pegged in the right knee by a sharp comebacker in the seventh inning of Wednesday's spring training contest. He should be considered day-to-day moving forward ... Lucas Duda (back) has been cleared to resume hitting on Wednesday. Duda came down with back spasms last week and eventually required cortisone shots in both of his hips, but he's slowly getting back to normal. The hope is that he could be ready to make his spring debut within the next few days ... Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo has named Zack Greinke as the club's Opening Day starter. The 33-year-old dealt with oblique and shoulder issues while struggling with a 4.37 ERA over 26 starts during his first season with Arizona ... Mariners acquired RHP Chase De Jong from the Dodgers for INF Drew Jackson and RHP Aneurys Zabala. De Jong, 23, spent the 2016 campaign plying his trade for Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City. He more than held his own in the minors, posting a 2.86 ERA, 1.02 WIHP and 125/39 K/BB ratio across 147 frames while compiling a sharp 14-5 record. He figures to make his major league debut with the Mariners at some point this season.