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Zack Wheeler shows improved command, strikes out eight

Zack Wheeler delivers a pitch during a spring

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

Mets pitching prospect Zack Wheeler racked up a season-high eight strikeouts on Sunday afternoon. However, he did not factor into the decision despite delivering his best performance of the season.

Pitching for Triple-A Las Vegas, Wheeler allowed three runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings against Colorado Springs, an improved effort after two erratic starts.

Wheeler, 22, battled command issues spurred on partly by a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand. But in his first full game since the blister popped, Wheeler showed improved control of his curveball and a fastball that topped out at 97 mph. While Wheeler struck out eight, he walked none.

Cashman Field, home of the Las Vegas 51s, has earned a reputation over the years as the kind of hitters' park common in the Pacific Coast League. In his first start in his new home park, Wheeler quickly learned why the reputation has endured.

In the second inning, Colorado Springs' Tyler Colvin lifted a fly ball to left field, which off the bat appeared to be an out. Instead, Colvin's drive carried over the fence in left field. Wheeler also allowed an RBI double to Nolan Arenado. The righthander was charged with a run in the sixth when Justin Hampson, who came on in relief of Wheeler, allowed his inherited runner to score.

Wheeler (0-1) owns a 3.86 ERA through his first three starts. He threw a season-high 97 pitches on Sunday while his 5 1/3 innings equalled his longest outing.

New York Sports