Phillies: Zack Wheeler unsure of status for 2020 season
By Matt Rappa
The Phillies may not have Zack Wheeler in their rotation this season
For now, the Philadelphia Phillies have power-throwing starting pitcher Zack Wheeler near the top of their rotation. But, things could change.
In a Zoom call with reporters on Sunday, the right-hander said that while he is currently committed to stay with the Phillies and play this season, he is still unsure about his long-term status, with he and his wife, Dominique, expecting their first baby later this month.
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Wheeler even had doubts coming to Phillies summer camp last week, not sure if he would stay, but said he feels safe and is pleased with the precautions that his team and teammates are taking. Among those include manager Joe Girardi, who Wheeler praised for his “control of the clubhouse.”
“Joe is a family guy,” Wheeler continued about his manager. “Family comes first to him. He knows the situation I’m in. He loves his kids. He’s a good guy and he’s one of the reasons I signed here.”
While Wheeler is able to focus on the mound, he said that when he steps off, his attention and thoughts immediately turn to his wife and family — his top priority.
Even if Wheeler decides to play this season after returning from paternity leave, he would likely miss a start or two, which could mean more than 10 games or 17 percent of the season. Wheeler noted that Girardi and the Phillies front office understands his position and that they would discuss further.
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With Wheeler considering not to play this season, and with the status of presumed Opening Day starter Aaron Nola currently in question, the outlook of the team’s starting rotation come July 24 could drastically change from what was anticipated.
Wheeler signed a five-year deal worth $118 million this past offseason, as the club looked to bolster its rotation to complement Nola and fellow veteran Jake Arrieta, among others. If Wheeler opts out, he would not get paid a prorated salary unless he has an underlying health condition.
Several notable players from around Major League Baseball have already opted out from the 2020 season, including RHP Mike Leake (Arizona Diamondbacks), 1B Ryan Zimmerman and RHP Joe Ross (Washington Nationals), RHP Tyson Ross (San Francisco Giants), OF Ian Desmond (Colorado Rockies), LHP David Price (Los Angeles Dodgers) and RHP Felix Hernandez (Atlanta Braves). Even coaches are opting out, including Cleveland Indians bench coach Brad Mills under manager Terry Francona.
If Wheeler and/or Mike Trout — another soon-to-be father unsure of his playing status — join this list in the coming weeks, the league and fans will need to accept their decision.