Phillies reveal plan for Zack Wheeler’s return to starting rotation

Zack Wheeler #45 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Zack Wheeler #45 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Phillies ace Zack Wheeler will return to face the Blue Jays on Wednesday.

The timing could not be better for Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Zack Wheeler to make his highly anticipated return to the starting rotation.

With the team on a three-game skid entering Sunday’s road series finale against the Atlanta Braves, the Phillies recently announced that Wheeler — who has been sidelined since August 20 with right forearm tendinitis — will return to the mound to start Wednesday’s interleague matchup against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Wheeler does not yet seem to be fully 100 percent, however, as the club is slated to “piggyback” him for at least his next two starts with fellow right-hander Noah Syndergaard. This method is in lieu of Wheeler going on a minor-league rehab assignment. As the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Alex Coffey notes, the Phillies hope to gradually build Wheeler up to increase his pitch count in each outing.

Given Syndergaard is backing up Wheeler, the Phillies will keep Bailey Falter in the rotation even after Wheeler returns. The left-hander is an impressive 5-0 with a 2.43 ERA in his last five starts. He will start on Sunday opposite Braves rookie right-hander Spencer Strider.

In order for the Phillies to make some noise in the postseason — if they even get there given their recent losing streak tightening the Wild Card standings with less than three weeks to go — they will need a healthy starting rotation. Wheeler, Aaron Nola, and either Ranger Suarez or Falter would be their ideal one-two-three punch.

The Phillies could face either the St. Louis Cardinals, New York Mets, or Atlanta Braves in the three-game Wild Card series — all to take place on the road away from Citizens Bank Park. The Phils’ last regular season home game is slated for Sunday, September 25, against the Braves — meaning a lot of time could pass before interim manager Rob Thomson’s squad plays a game again in South Philadelphia.

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