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By Ed Coleman
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Zack Wheeler understands.
He’d love to open the season with the Mets at Citi Field when they take on the San Diego Padres in early April. But most likely he’ll be on the mound for the Las Vegas 51s — the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate — on their Opening Day, throwing to another highly-touted prospect, catcher Travis d’Arnaud.
Wheeler doesn’t dwell on it, but he’s definitely thought about it. So what are the chances of him having a great spring training and making the team coming out of Florida?
For Wheeler, who is just 22, it will come in time.
Wheeler went a combined 12-8 with a 3.26 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A last year, recording 148 strikeouts in 149 innings (8.9 K’s per 9 innings). He was asked to assess his 2012 season.
At Binghamton, Wheeler went 10-6 with a 3.26 ERA in 19 starts, striking out 117 in 116 innings. He made six more starts after being promoted to Buffalo, going 2-2 with a 3.27 ERA and striking out 31 over 33 innings. And he was pleased that his stamina seemed to improve as the season went along.
Wheeler was named to the Eastern League All-Star team, and also pitched in the Futures Game at the All-Star Game in Kansas City.
For Wheeler, heightened command of his offspeed pitches — the changeup and curveball – was really the true measure of the progress that he made last season.
Wheeler’s changeup is getting better. Like a lot of hard-throwing youngsters, he got a very late start on it, but it’s coming.
And also like a lot of other young pitchers, he learned that if you keep the ball down in the zone on a consistent basis, good things will inevitably happen.
Things will work out fine for Wheeler. Fellow stud right-hander Matt Harvey made his major league debut on July 26 last season. The “Wheels” should be rolling into Citi Field by that date this year — if not before.
C U soon
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