Zack Wheeler to be optioned to minors between starts

Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler throws during the team's

Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler throws during the team's first pitchers and catchers workout at spring training baseball in Port St. Lucie, Fla. (Feb. 13, 2013) (Credit: AP)

ATLANTA - Top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler has been designated as the Mets' 26th man for Tuesday's doubleheader, a procedural move that will essentially give the Mets an extra roster spot through next Tuesday, when he will be recalled for his next scheduled start.

The Mets are taking advantage of a relatively new rule that grants teams an extra roster spot for doubleheaders.

So, how will it work?

Technically, because Wheeler is the 26th man, he must be sent back down to Triple-A Las Vegas at the completion of Tuesday's doubleheader.

But because he is the 26th man, the Mets can recall him without having to wait 10 days, as is typically the case when a player is optioned.

Since Wheeler is the 26th man, the Mets won't have to send another player down, which is important considering their current roster constraints. Earlier in the day, the Mets placed utilityman Justin Turner on the disabled list.

The Mets, according to a source, initially had no intention of putting Wheeler in the middle of the roster shuffle. However, Turner's injury, and the return of Scott Atchison from the DL, put more of a premium on open roster spots.

So, what comes next for Wheeler?

By rule, while he's not on the roster, he's not allowed to be with the team. But he also doesn't have to report to Triple-A Las Vegas, even though that's technically where he has been optioned.

Instead, the source said Wheeler will likely join one of the team's nearby minor league affiliates so he can throw his normal between-starts bullpen session. But the Mets have yet to determine exactly where that will be, though Class-A Brooklyn makes the most geographic sense.

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