The Zack Wheeler era began on a promising note.
Making his major league debut on Tuesday evening as part of a doubleheader at Atlanta’s Turner Field, the 23-year-old right-hander tossed six scoreless innings, fanning seven Braves batters and allowing just four hits. Wheeler issued a total of five walks and looked a little bit shaky early on, but he settled in quite nicely over the course of his 102 pitches.
The score was tied 0-0 when Wheeler finished pitching after the bottom of the sixth inning, but backup catcher Anthony Recker slugged a two-run homer in the top of the seventh to give the Mets the offensive spark that would lead to a 6-1 victory.
New York also won the first half of Tuesday’s doubleheader — a Matt Harvey outing.
Wheeler will make his second major league start Tuesday night in Chicago against the White Sox. He was acquired from the Giants around the 2011 trade deadline in exchange for outfielder Carlos Beltran.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.