Mets will be conservative with Wheeler

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Zack Wheeler predicted he would be ready to pitch in his next Grapefruit League assignment on schedule, but it's hard to fathom the Mets giving him that opportunity.

Given the length of time remaining in spring training and the importance of Wheeler to the franchise, the Mets will conservatively treat Wheeler's right oblique strain, which has been labeled "mild" by Sandy Alderson.

"No question," Terry Collins said. "He said he could even pitch today. He said, 'I could have pitched.' And I said, 'No, there's no sense in pushing it.'

"We're not even to March yet. [Pitching coach] Dan [Warthen] brought up the other day that this time last year we were throwing batting practice. I said, 'You've got a long time. Just make sure you get your treatment.' ...

"When you're looking at the big picture of things -- which we do all the time here -- one of the things in the big picture is the future of this organization. The big promises we've got coming, it's on the mound. So you're certainly not going to take a chance. He told me today, 'I didn't feel it until I was just standing there and all of a sudden I felt an ache.'

"We've got to be very, very careful, because we're not going to be doing anything to hurt this guy."

Collins added that Wheeler's hitting in the cage was consistent with what Mets pitchers regularly do.

"Oh yeah, we've done it every day," Collins said.

As for the spate of side-muscle injuries in recent years in camp, including Daniel Murphy this year, Collins called it "the new, modern-day injury" around baseball because of bulkier players and not specific to the Mets.