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Zack Wheeler likely to make major-league debut next weekend

Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler throws a pitch during

Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler throws a pitch during a spring training workout at Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie, Fla. (Feb. 20, 2013) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

The time apparently has come for the Mets to add righthanded pitching prospect Zack Wheeler to a rotation that already includes young phenom Matt Harvey.

Multiple sources indicated to Newsday that Wheeler, who picked up a no-decision in what might have been his final start for Triple-A Las Vegas Friday night in Tacoma, Wash., likely will make his major-league debut during a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs that begins Friday at Citi Field.

Because of the variables at play, no definitive decision has been made on which game of the three-game set Wheeler will start, sources said.

Mets public relations director Jay Horwitz confirmed to the Daily News that he spent the team's day off on Monday flying from Washington to Fresno, Calif., where Las Vegas was playing, to meet personally with Wheeler and prepare him for his media responsibilities. Horwitz said he took that unusual step with the approval of owner Fred Wilpon.

The Mets have delayed Wheeler's major-league debut this long not only to give him more experience at the Triple-A level but to ensure that his call-up is late enough in the season to delay his arbitration eligibility by one year until after the 2016 season. He can't become an unrestricted free agent until after the 2019 season.

It's uncertain whether Dillon Gee, Jeremy Hefner or Shaun Marcum will be displaced from the starting rotation. But Mets fans can look forward to watching two promising pitching prospects.

Harvey (5-0, 2.17 ERA) saw Friday night's scheduled start against Miami washed out by Tropical Storm Andrea. The postponed game will be made up as part of a single-admission doubleheader on Sept. 14, and Harvey will pitch against the Marlins Saturday.

Wheeler isn't as polished as Harvey, but he has a 4-1 record and 4.14 ERA with Las Vegas after allowing four runs in 42/3 innings in a 12-5 victory over Tacoma. His velocity often is in the range of 95 to 97 mph and he has 66 strikeouts in 63 innings, suggesting he could become the second half of a 1-2 power punch with Harvey.

At least, that's the Mets' hope.

With Marc Carig

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