NEW YORK (AP) - The New York Mets may bring up top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler to start one of the games of a doubleheader at Atlanta on June 18.
"It's a possibility," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said Monday. "Quite possible."
Alderson hinted at the likelihood of calling up Wheeler during an interview earlier in the day on WFAN and then spoke about it later during a telephone interview with The Associated Press.
"He is that somebody we're counting on for the future," Alderson said. "So in that sense he's beginning what we hope is a long career as a New York Met, a long, successful career as a New York Met."
A 23-year-old right-hander, Wheeler was selected by San Francisco with the sixth overall pick of the 2009 amateur draft and was obtained by the Mets two years ago in the trade that sent All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran to the Giants.
Wheeler, whose fastball is in the upper 90s mph, is 4-1 with a 4.14 ERA in 12 starts with 66 strikeouts in 63 innings for Triple-A Las Vegas. By delaying bringing him up until this point in the season, the Mets are assured he won't be eligible for salary arbitration until after the 2016 season.
Barring rainouts, Wheeler and Matt Harvey could start in the day-night doubleheader at Turner Field. Harvey, a 24-year-old right-hander who made his major league debut last summer, is 5-0 with a 2.10 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 90 innings. He is one of the few bright spots for the Mets, fourth in the NL at 23-35.
After Sunday's loss to the Miami Marlins, who are 8-3 against New York and 10-41 against the rest of the major leagues, the Mets demoted first baseman Ike Davis, outfielder Mike Baxter and reliever Rob Carson to Triple-A.
"Players are evaluated every day and those evaluations are punctuated from time to time with demotions or promotions," Alderson said. "So I guess in that sense the next few weeks will be a continuation of that process, and we may see more moves or we may not."
Given the lack of proven quality players at several positions, especially the outfield, many predicted the Mets would struggle this year.
"We all have expectations coming into a season," Alderson said, "and at the same time, one has to take into account the potential of the group one has. And when you're that close to it, there tends to be some emotion involved, as well. But we certainly have higher hopes for our season than we've demonstrated to date."