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Mets defend handling of Wheeler

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson on Tuesday defended the team's handling of right-hander Zack Wheeler during last season. Wheeler, who got word Monday that he has a torn elbow ligament, complained of elbow pain last season but still made 32 starts.

Wheeler, 24, has a fully torn ulnar collateral ligament and will miss the upcoming season. He will decide in coming days whether Dr. David Altchek or Dr. James Andrews will perform his Tommy John surgery, but the procedure is inevitable, Alderson said.

The GM insisted Tuesday that the ligament ultimately was going to give out on Wheeler. So if the Mets had placed him on the disabled list last season in order to rest, they merely would have been depriving themselves of his services while not preventing the balky ligament from ultimately snapping.

"Let me just ask, why would we treat somebody like [staff ace Matt] Harvey with the kind of caution that we did and then throw somebody else under the bus -- somebody of essentially equal value to us as an organization?" Alderson asked. "That wouldn't make any sense. I understand people can debate the number of pitches and the number of innings and this and that. We simply wouldn't treat two guys that differently.

"The other thing is, when a guy is being managed, you understand what the sort of apocalyptic result could be -- he blows something out. But the question is, what's the alternative? If it blows out, it blows out. The alternative is that you manage somebody to the point where he's not useful to you. ... And so the question is: OK, was the tear inevitable? Or is this a function of how he was used? From my standpoint, it's inevitable given the practicality of how somebody is used in the course of a major league season."

B.B. Abbott, Wheeler's agent, said he had no issue with the way the Mets handled the right-hander. The agent added that he had sought independent analysis of Wheeler's elbow issue, and Wheeler was treated consistently with doctors' recommendations.

"Anything that happened last year, or any other time Zack has been a Met, has been with complete and full knowledge of the circumstances, and occurred after consultation with qualified orthopedic surgeons," Abbott said.

Wheeler has an in-person consultation set up with Altchek, the team doctor, in Manhattan on Wednesday. The ace's MRI results are being sent for review by Andrews, too. Wheeler may choose to visit the Alabama-based surgeon, according to Alderson.

As for why he shopped a starting pitcher during the offseason knowing Wheeler's elbow could give out and given other health uncertainties within the rotation, Alderson said the reason was partly because of the reservoir of young pitching -- with Rafael Montero, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz -- the Mets enjoy.

"It's not like we assumed he was going to go down," Alderson said, "but you're right to point out that Harvey is coming back from an injury and Zack is 'ouchy' and [Bartolo] Colon is, you know, 60. But, at the same time, we feel like there's depth. And we feel confident in our depth."

Wheeler declined to answer questions Tuesday before departing for New York.

"I know you all have a lot of questions and stuff, but I'm not going to talk until I get Dr. Altchek's input," Wheeler said. " ... Once I come back down, I'll talk to you all and give you all the information that you want. But, until then, I just want to make sure that I know everything first -- know all the right facts, instead of just throwing stuff out there."

Dillon Gee will take Wheeler's spot in the rotation.

"Unfortunately for Zack's sake I'm back in the rotation," Gee said. "I hate that this is the way I'm back in there, if it is me for the foreseeable future. I'm just going to try to get stretched back out and do the best I can as a starter."