On-Base Perception

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Zack Wheeler struggles with command in Triple-A opener

Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler delivers a pitch during

Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler delivers a pitch during a spring training workout at Tradition Field. (Feb. 15, 2013) (Credit: Alejandra Villa)

Zack Wheeler showed why he's considered one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball.

In his season debut with Triple-A Las Vegas on Thursday night, Wheeler needed just three pitches to strike out Sacramento second baseman Jemile Weeks, the first batter he faced in the game. His fastball topped out at 98 mph and he showed the touch with his curveball that has left some scouts raving.

But Wheeler also displayed why the Mets have stashed their top pitching prospect away in the minors to start the season.

Wheeler did not factor in the decision at Sacramento on Thursday night, when he allowed two runs on three hits in 3 1/3 innings. Manager Wally Backman emerged from the dugout to fetch Wheeler with one out in the fourth. The 22-year-old had already thrown 86 pitches in his outing, a byproduct of the erratic command he must iron out before he reaches the big leagues.

Wheeler left the game -- which was available through milb.com -- leading 4-2. He walked three but struck out three in the season opener for Triple-A Las Vegas.

With fellow prospect Travis d'Arnaud calling the pitches behind the plate, Wheeler routinely fell behind in the count, another sign that his command wasn't as sharp. Still, Wheeler's fastball appeared to have plenty of life, even though he struggled at times to spot it.

At the plate, d'Arnaud lined a pair of doubles and walked for Las Vegas.

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