Zack Wheeler moves up, but likely will not pitch for Mets this year

U.S. Futures All-Star Zack Wheeler, then of the

U.S. Futures All-Star Zack Wheeler, then of the San Francisco Giants, throws a pitch during the 2010 XM All-Star Futures Game. (July 11, 2010) (Credit: Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO -- After the initial success of rookie stud Matt Harvey, might Mets fans get a chance to see their other top pitching prospect, Zack Wheeler, in the major leagues this season?

"I think it's unlikely," general manager Sandy Alderson said Wednesday night.

The Mets announced yesterday that Wheeler, the 22-year-old righthander acquired from the Giants last July in the Carlos Beltran trade, is being promoted from Double-A Binghamton to Triple-A Buffalo.

It's a little unusual for an organization to put out a news release when a minor-leaguer is moved up a level. But the Mets are that enamored of Wheeler and understand their fans' interest in his progress, especially in the wake of the impressive first two starts by Harvey.

Alderson said Wheeler will be bumping up against an innings limit in the next month or so. Wheeler has thrown 116 innings so far after pitching 115 in 2011.

"There are a couple of reasons ," Alderson said. "The primary one may be that he pitched 115 innings last year. We probably don't want him to go much past 150 this year. If you look at what he has left, he's probably got enough left to get him through August in Buffalo. But I'm not sure there are going to be any innings left at the end of August. So I think it's unlikely we'll see him."

Wheeler was 10-6 with a 3.26 ERA in 19 starts at Double-A. In 116 innings, he allowed 92 hits and 43 walks with 117 strikeouts. His first Triple-A start is scheduled for Sunday.

The Mets envision Wheeler and Harvey fronting their rotations for years to come. But not just yet. Alderson said he also expects to shut down Harvey once he reaches his innings limit of 165-170. Harvey has thrown a combined 121 1/3 innings this season.

"Matt Harvey's in a similar situation," Alderson said. "We're looking at 165-170 for him. I'm not saying that's the magic number, but just in terms of where we should end up at the end of the season, it'll be far short of 200. That may get him through the middle of September, it may get him through a little big longer than that, but we'll certainly have to keep an eye on that.''

Harvey, 23, was the losing pitcher in Tuesday's 4-1 Mets defeat at AT & T Park. But he pitched better than his line (6 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 K). He was undone by a pair of miscues by the Mets' defense in the Giants' two-run second inning.

Harvey, the Mets' No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft, struck out 11 in 51/3 scoreless innings in his big-league debut on July 26 at Arizona. He is scheduled to face the light-hitting Padres on Sunday in San Diego before making his Citi Field debut against the Braves, most likely on Aug. 11.

The Mets are hoping to welcome Johan Santana back from the disabled list on the next homestand and then will set their rotation. Manager Terry Collins has floated a plan to use R.A. Dickey on short rest at times in the season's final two months, but Alderson seems less enthusiastic about the idea.

Notes & quotes: Frank Francisco pitched a scoreless inning for Buffalo in his final rehab assignment. The closer is expected to rejoin the team Friday in San Diego . . . Jason Bay was back in the lineup after not starting on Tuesday because of a sore left calf. Andres Torres (thumb) was available off the bench as a righthanded hitter, but he is still not able to bat lefthanded.

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