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Zack Wheeler could end up starting the All-Star Game for NL


Zack Wheeler is in his second season with the Phillies. (Cheryl Pursell)

Zack Wheeler will get the ball for the Philadelphia Phillies Wednesday evening at Wrigley Field, likely for what will be the final time in the first half of 2021.

His next appearance will come at Coors Field next Tuesday, perhaps with the first-time All-Star getting the start for Dave Roberts and the National League squad.

Jacob deGrom – Wheeler’s former New York Mets teammate – of course would be the natural pick for the start. deGrom, already a two-time National League Cy Young Award winner, has a 0.95 ERA, 0.99 FIP and 4.8 fWAR in what’s been a historically-dominant start to 2021.

But while the now five-time All-Star hasn’t ever started in the midsummer classic, he told Mike Puma of The New York Post last week that he didn’t plan to pitch in the All-Star Game if selected because he was scheduled to pitch two days earlier for the Mets. However, the Mets game was rained out Tuesday evening, meaning that deGrom will pitch Wednesday, likely making it his final start before the All-Star Game. As Ken Davidoff wrote Tuesday evening, this would make it harder for deGrom to pass on a chance to start the All-Star Game.

Still, deGrom has had multiple injury scares in 2021, which is why he’s thrown only 85 innings to this point. It’s entirely possible that the 33-year-old simply won’t view the All-Star Game as worth risking what may turn into one of the greatest seasons in MLB history. At 44-37, the Mets are also in first place in the National League East, so deGrom could very easily tap out with the bigger picture on his mind.

Outside of deGrom, Wheeler has arguably been the best pitcher in baseball in 2021. The 31-year-old’s 2.05 ERA is fifth among all qualified starters. His 2.28 FIP and 4.2 fWAR are second to only deGrom. No pitcher has thrown more innings than Wheeler’s 114, a total he’ll build on Wednesday evening.

San Francisco Giants righty Kevin Gausman has a minuscule 1.74 ERA and is from Centennial, Colorado, which is less than half an hour away from Coors Field, where the All-Star Game will take place. This essentially being a home All-Star Game for Gausman – also a first-time All-Star – could play a factor in the decision of Roberts. Gausman, though, is on track to start for the Giants Sunday, which may also make him unavailable to pitch on Tuesday.

If it’s ultimately Wheeler that starts the game for the National League, he’ll be the first Phillies pitcher to start the game since Hall of Famer Roy Halladay did so in 2011.

Regardless of whether he’s the first, second or third pitcher used by the National League in the All-Star Game, it will be interesting to see how quickly the Phillies have Wheeler make his first start of the second half. He’s unquestionably been their best pitcher in 2021, but Joe Girardi has been pretty open about concerns he has about the workload of Wheeler, who threw 71 total innings in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

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