LAS VEGAS - Sandy Alderson was being coy and Zack Wheeler was being humble. But everyone here knows barring the unforeseen, Wheeler will make his major-league debut for the Mets in the first game of a doubleheader next Tuesday against the Braves in Atlanta.
First, though, Wheeler will make one more Triple-A start. That will come Thursday at Cashman Field. Wheeler was moved back a day to line him up for his major-league outing.
"There's been a lot of speculation that he'll start one game of the doubleheader on June 18," Alderson said during an appearance on WFAN. "Unlike most speculation this probably has some accuracy." He added: "You could speculate that and be fairly comfortable."
Wheeler, a 22-year-old righthander from Smyrna, Ga., will share the bill with Matt Harvey in the day-night doubleheader. For Mets fans, it will be a glimpse into what could be a glorious future 1-2 punch.
Wheeler is 4-1 with a 4.14 ERA in 12 Triple-A starts pitching in the thin air of the Pacific Coast League. Still, expectations will be high when he begins his big-league journey.
"I know what everybody thinks of me, fans-wise and stuff -- I'm supposed to be the next big guy, with Harvey -- so obviously they're paying a lot of attention to me," Wheeler said Monday night. "I've just got to concentrate on what I'm doing and perform so I can stay on their good side."
While Wheeler said he hasn't been told he'll be starting for the Mets next Tuesday, he has texted "close friends and family so they can maybe take off work or something."
Las Vegas manager Wally Backman -- a hopeless plain-talker -- knows his time guiding Wheeler is almost at an end. Heck, Backman said Wheeler was ready in May, but the Mets have held him back in part to avoid his reaching arbitration eligibility a year early.
"He knows that he's going," Backman said. "Sandy even said it on the radio today that he's going there the 18th . . . His stuff is plus. He doesn't have one average major-league pitch. They're all above average. When he's on and he's right, he's pretty unhittable, I think. I look forward to seeing him out there."
Said Wheeler: "Overall, I feel like I'm ready. Hopefully I'll find it this next start, before I go up there. Even if I don't, I'll be good to go."
With Marc Carig