Phillies can’t escape injury woes as Zack Wheeler exits game early

After getting a pair of star hitters back from the IL on Tuesday, there’s now concern over Wheeler’s health.
Philadelphia Phillies v Chicago Cubs
Philadelphia Phillies v Chicago Cubs / Quinn Harris/GettyImages

The Philadelphia Phillies got a couple of key pieces of their lineup back with Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber returning from the IL on Tuesday for the opening game of a three-game series versus the Los Angeles Dodgers. The return of Harper and Schwarber paid off instantly, as the Phillies offense obliterated Dodgers starter Bobby Miller for nine earned runs in only four innings.

Following a tough series loss against the Atlanta Braves this past weekend where the Phillies dropped two out of three games on the road against their NL East division rivals, the Phillies looked to Zack Wheeler to get the team back in the win column against the 55-36 NL West-leading Dodgers. Recently named an NL All-Star for the second time in his career, Wheeler looked dominant on the mound in this one.

While the Phillies offense was putting up crooked numbers, Wheeler was in full command on the mound, recording seven strikeouts and two walks, while allowing only one earned run on a solo home run to Cavan Biggio in the fifth inning. With Wheeler's pitch count only at 76 pitches through five innings, it came as quite a surprise to see Seranthony Domínguez take the mound for the Phillies in top of the sixth.

Phillies can’t escape injury woes as Zack Wheeler exits game early

NBC Sports Philadelphia's Phillies play-by-play voice Tom McCarthy was quick to report that Wheeler was pulled from the game after experiencing "lower back tightness" during the fifth inning. While it wasn't visible when Wheeler suffered the injury, he clearly labored in his last inning of work, with Phillies pitching coach Caleb Cotham making a mound visit with two outs in the inning.

While Zack Wheeler's status for making his next start Sunday against the Oakland Athletics is currently unknown, it's possible the Phillies could skip Wheeler's turn in the rotation and allow him extra time over the All-Star break to recover. We'll clearly know more after manager Rob Thomson speaks to the media after the game.

Update: After the game, Thomson said that Wheeler’s back tightened up after sitting for so long during the fourth inning and was just removed as a precaution, per The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Alex Coffey. They expect him to make his next start as of now but will be checking him again on Wednesday.