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Wally Backman: Zack Wheeler ready for the big leagues

Zach Wheeler #65 of the New York Mets

Zach Wheeler #65 of the New York Mets Credit: Getty Images

LAS VEGAS -- Zack Wheeler has nothing left to do at Triple-A Las Vegas. That's the take from his manager, Wally Backman.

"This kid's ready," Backman said. "He's ready to pitch in the big leagues. I personally believe that. His stuff definitely plays. It's a matter of when the organization feels he's ready to go there."

Whether Wheeler feels the same remains a mystery, as the Mets' prized 23-year-old righthander was not made available for an interview Wednesday. Backman, though, thinks Wheeler is starting to wonder if the call will come in the next couple of weeks, as is rumored.

"I can't speak for him, but after watching his last start, I'd seen a piece of that, I thought," Backman said. "He was still determined out there, competing very well. I'm not going to say there wasn't a killer instinct, but there was something that was just lacking. There's been so much hype."

It's unlikely that the Mets will promote Wheeler before the Super Two arbitration deadline, which is projected to fall in early June. Wheeler likely would be eligible for arbitration for an extra year if he were to debut before the deadline. The Mets have looked at the June 14-16 series against the Cubs at Citi Field for Wheeler's major-league debut, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Wheeler threw 80 pitches in four innings Monday against Salt Lake, allowing two home runs and seven baserunners. The start was Wheeler's second after a brief stint on the disabled list because of shoulder inflammation that required a trip to New York for an examination.

Wheeler also has battled a strained oblique that sidelined him through most of spring training and a blister on his pitching hand early in the season.

"Once that blister went away, we've really seen what Zack is really all about," Backman said. "He threw four starts in a row where it looked like a big-league guy throwing to high school kids at times."

In 10 Pacific Coast League starts, Wheeler is 3-1 with a 4.13 ERA. He has given up 49 hits, walked 23 and struck out 53 in 521/3 innings.

This scenario is nothing new for Backman, who guided Matt Harvey through the uncertainty in Buffalo before his 2012 call-up.

"I can remember Matt last year coming into the office when he threw two or three great starts and saying, 'When the [heck] am I going to the big leagues?' " Backman said. "I said, 'Hey, just keep putting up zeros and they've gotta make a decision.' It was an everyday thing with him. Zack's a little more laid-back than Matt, but the competitiveness is definitely there."

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