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Zack Wheeler has rough outing in Triple-A

Zack Wheeler throws a live batting practice session

Zack Wheeler throws a live batting practice session during spring training in Port St. Lucie, Fla. (Feb. 20, 2013) Credit: AP

Top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler remains on track to make his Mets debut sometime next month -- assuming he proves he's ready to face major-league hitters.

The righthander hit a speed bump Monday, allowing five runs (three earned) in four innings for Triple-A Las Vegas. Wheeler did not factor in the decision in Las Vegas' 9-7 win over Salt Lake City. He walked three, struck out four and allowed a pair of home runs.

In 10 starts with Las Vegas, Wheeler is 3-1 with a 4.13 ERA.

Wheeler's promotion appears tied to baseball's Super 2 arbitration deadline. If the Mets wait long enough to call up the pitcher, he will not be granted a fourth year of salary arbitration, a move that would save the Mets several million dollars down the road.

According to one major-league executive, even if the Mets promoted Wheeler now, the team still would have a chance to keep him from earning a year of additional year of salary arbitration.

But the executive said waiting until sometime in mid-June would decrease the chances of Wheeler gaining another arbitration year.

Niese back on track

Jonathon Niese allowed one run and eight hits in seven innings, the latest sign that the lefthander has recovered after a shaky start. "He gave up some hits but he hung in there and got outs when he had to," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

Niese has pitched to a 1.33 ERA in his last three starts. He lowered his career ERA to 2.05 in four starts against the Yankees.

Ruben new leading man

Collins' continuing quest to find batters to reach base ahead of David Wright led him to yet another lineup change. But in his first game in the leadoff spot since May 12, Ruben Tejada went 0-for-4.

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