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Wheeler in control, secures fourth win
Mets prospect has best start since experiencing shoulder pain
06/02/2013 2:25 AM ET
Zach Wheeler is averaging 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 11 starts.
Zach Wheeler is averaging 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 11 starts. (Las Vegas 51s)

Zack Wheeler's start on Saturday night was in Fresno, Calif., not Miami. And he was wearing the uniform of the Las Vegas 51s, not the New York Mets.

Whatever the venue, whatever the team, the Mets' top pitching prospect was concentrating only on the game itself.

"I can only control what I can control," Wheeler said.

The just turned 23-year-old right-hander controlled the Grizzlies for six innings, giving up a run on three hits and a walk while striking out six as the Triple-A 51s held on for a 2-1 victory.

The outing came after Mets manager Terry Collins quashed speculation that Wheeler would make a spot start against the Marlins in place of injured left-hander Jonathon Niese.

"When Zack comes, we hope he stays here for the rest of his time," Collins said. "Had Zack Wheeler been selected to make this one start and he came up and pitched a one-hitter, he'd have been back [in the PCL] the next day. That would have led you guys [in the media] to jump off a cliff."

Earlier this month, 51s manager Wally Backman responded, "Absolutely," when asked if Wheeler was ready to pitch in the Major Leagues.

Wheeler, though, wouldn't say whether he would have preferred to make a one-time appearance in the big leagues over staying at the Triple-A level.

"Like I said, I can only control what I can control." he said.

Two of the three hits he gave up on Saturday came in the second inning. Roger Kieschnick led off with a single up the middle and moved to third on two groundouts. Carter Jurica laced a liner into center field on Wheeler's first pitch for an RBI single.

"I left the ball up a little bit," said Wheeler, who responded to a call from the bench and picked Jurica off on a 2-2 count to end the inning.

Wheeler led off the third by sending a 1-1 fastball from Fresno starter Fabio Castillo off the wall in center for a double. His second career extra-base hit raised the question, what would he have thrown himself in that situation?

"Eh, probably a fastball," he said.

Maybe in a different location?

"Yeah."

Kirk Nieuwenhuis brought Wheeler in with his eighth homer of the season.

From that point on, Wheeler said he "got into a good rhythm and was making good pitches." He retired eight in a row before giving up another single to Jurica, then struck out Jackson Williams to end the inning. In the sixth, he worked around a one-out walk to Kensuke Tanaka and fanned two. The former Giants prospect had thrown 95 pitches -- 62 for strikes -- and knew his night was over. Still, he would have been happy to take a crack at the seventh.

"If they would've wanted me to, that would have been fine with me," Wheeler said. "I just focus up on making the pitches I need to make. How many innings I'm going to go, that's up to Wally."

Wheeler had experienced pain in his clavicle after a May 11 start, and the Mets brought him to New York for an examination and a cortisone shot. He's pitched 15 innings over three starts since.

"I haven't had any soreness since I got the shot," he said, "so I should be all set."

Juan Perez, the Giants' No. 20 prospect, doubled in the seventh and was the only Fresno player besides Kieschnick and Jurica to register a hit.

Josh Jackson is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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