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Tuesday, August 21, 2018

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There have been plenty of #LOLMets moments this year, but one very encouraging aspect of their season has been the emergence of Zack Wheeler.

 

Wheeler was brilliant again Monday at home against the Giants, firing seven innings of one-run ball while notching a season-high 10 strikeouts. He allowed just five hits and one walk, with the Giants’ lone run scoring on a bloop double in Wheeler’s final inning of work. It’s the first time in just over four years that the righty recorded a double-digit strikeout game.

 

Wheeler hasn’t given up more than two runs in any of his six starts since the All-Star break, boasting a 1.38 ERA, 0.85 WHIP and 40/7 K/BB ratio over 39 innings during that span. Going back farther, he’s posted a 2.71 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 93/28 K/BB across 96 1/3 frames covering 15 starts since the beginning of June.

 

The 28-year-old entered Monday’s outing averaging 96.4 mph with his fastball since the beginning of June and overall this season he’s throwing as hard as he ever has. The added velocity has no doubt helped, but just staying healthy has been huge for Wheeler after he missed virtually all of 2015 and 2016 following Tommy John surgery and a large chunk of 2017 with a couple different arm issues.

 

Wheeler is on pace to throw a career-high 196 1/3 innings this season, which would be 109 innings more than he totaled from 2015-17 combined. That would seem to make him a candidate to wear down at some point, although he’s obviously shown no signs of doing so.

 

The Mets fielded offers for Wheeler at the trade deadline but ultimately passed on them, as they were unsatisfied with what other teams were willing to give up for a guy who is under control for next season. They’re likely happy they hung on to him.

 

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Ohtani on His Way?

 

When Shohei Ohtani was diagnosed with a Grade 2 sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow back in early June, the natural reaction was a pessimistic one. However, there appears to be increasing optimism lately on the young phenom’s status.

 

Ohtani threw a 29-pitch simulated game on Monday at the Angels’ spring training complex in what was his fifth throwing session and first time facing hitters since his unfortunate diagnosis. The club offered afterward that “all went well.”

 

The Halos have not yet revealed what the next step is for Ohtani, but they have said previously that he will not pitch in the minors during his rehab process. That could mean his return to the Angels’ rotation isn’t far off even if it means he’ll be on a pretty limited pitch count initially. Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register writes of Ohtani that “all that’s left is for him to do is another, longer, simulated game.”

 

While there’s still no set timetable for the right-hander’s return, waiting until September to stick Ohtani back in the rotation would make sense, as the Angels would have more protection behind him with rosters expanded. Ohtani is expected to be made available to the media Tuesday, so perhaps we’ll know more about his status then.

 

While things are certainly trending in a positive direction here, expectations should be kept in check. If Ohtani rejoins the rotation in early September, it would realistically probably be at least mid-September before he’d be allowed to go five-plus innings in a start. That leaves him with a very small window to make an impact for fantasy owners, and that’s assuming he doesn’t have any sort of setback along the way. Any sort of bump in the road would surely end his chances of pitching again this season, and the Tommy John surgery cloud is going to be hanging over him for a while.

 

Ohtani returned to designated hitter duties in early July and has batted .245/.322/.509 with seven home runs, 18 RBI and five stolen bases over 119 plate appearances since then. If the 24-year-old does return to pitching next month, he would presumably return to his early-season DH schedule when he didn’t hit the day before or day after he pitched.

 

Kenley Struggles in Return

 

The Dodgers got a surprise addition to their bullpen Monday.

 

Kenley Jansen was examined by a cardiologist Monday and given clearance to return to action, so he was activated from the disabled list and available against the Cardinals. His return did not go as hoped, though, as he served up back-to-back homers in the ninth inning of what had been a tie game. Jansen wound up missing just under two weeks of action because of an irregular heartbeat after the initial projected timetable for Jansen was 4-6 weeks.

 

Jansen isn’t totally out of the woods yet with his heart issues that date back several years. He’ll continue to take medication and said Monday that there’s a 90 percent chance he will need ablation surgery again this offseason, which is the same procedure he had six years ago. Jansen didn’t express any concern about his condition Monday, though, saying he “told them not to baby me.”

 

The Dodgers lost seven games while Jansen was away. Six of them were by one run, and they blew a couple saves chances in the process. Jansen blew just one save opportunity all of last season. Jansen might have showed a little rust Monday, but I have a hunch the Dodgers will welcome their closer back.

 

 

American League Quick Hits: Jose Altuve (knee) is set to be activated from the disabled list Tuesday … Kendrys Morales homered twice and tallied four in the Blue Jays’ win over the Orioles on Monday … Ramon Laureano clubbed two homers and plated five runs Monday versus the Rangers … Robinson Cano went 3-for-5 and popped a go-ahead, three-run homer in Monday’s win over the Astros … Chris Sale (shoulder) will not be activated from the disabled list when first eligible on Saturday … Mike Fiers fanned eight while holding the Rangers to one hit over seven scoreless frames Monday … George Springer was scratched from the Astros’ lineup Monday due to left quad soreness but was available off the bench … MLB.com’s Greg Johns has reported that the Mariners could be shooting for the August 30-September 2 series versus the Athletics for James Paxton’s (forearm) return … Indians manager Terry Francona said Monday that he expects Edwin Encarnacion (hand) to be activated from the disabled list by “mid-week” … Marwin Gonzalez went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBI Monday in Seattle … Michael Brantley singled and hit a game-tying two-run homer Monday as the Indians topped the Red Sox … The Orioles placed Mark Trumbo on the disabled list with right knee inflammation … Matt Davidson went 2-for-5 with a two-run homer and three RBI in the White Sox’ victory over the Twins on Monday … Max Kepler went 2-for-4 with a solo homer in the Twins’ loss to the White Sox on Monday … 

 

National League Quick Hits: Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic has reported that the Giants have placed Andrew McCutchen on revocable waivers and there’s a “very good chance he is wearing another uniform by the end of the week” … Joel Sherman of the New York Post has reported that Daniel Murphy has been claimed on revocable waivers by an unnamed team … The Mets placed Brandon Nimmo on the disabled list with a bruised left index finger … A.J. Minter was unavailable to pitch Monday because of back tightness and is questionable for Tuesday … Dereck Rodriguez (hamstring) will rejoin the Giants’ rotation Friday against the Rangers … Matt Carpenter went 3-for-5 with his National League-leading 34th home run in the Cardinals’ victory over the Dodgers on Monday … Making his major league debut, Bryse Wilson tossed five scoreless innings and fanned five to earn a win Monday against the Pirates … Chris Archer was lifted from Monday’s start versus the Braves as a precaution with left leg discomfort … The Braves designated Ryan Flaherty for assignment Monday … 

Ryan Boyer is a baseball writer for Rotoworld. He can also be found on Twitter.
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