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Wheeler dominates, goes the distance
Mets' top prospect fans seven in first career complete game
07/15/2012 12:24 AM ET
Zack Wheeler ranks second in the Eastern League with a 2.39 ERA.
Zack Wheeler ranks second in the Eastern League with a 2.39 ERA. (Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com)
What did Zack Wheeler do on his week off?

Well, between attending two elite exhibitions in a four-day span in Kansas City and Reading, Pa., then heading back to Binghamton, N.Y. for the start of the Mets' second half. ... Wait, what was the question?

"Always flyin' somewhere or drivin' somewhere," the Smyrna, Ga., native said of his All-Star break. "Not much time for fun."

Standing in against him Saturday night, the Erie SeaWolves weren't exactly lounging and laughing, either.

In his first start back, the Mets' top prospect struck out seven and pitched the first complete game of his career in Double-A Binhamton's 1-0 home win over Erie.

Wheeler (9-4) walked the first batter of the game, Jamie Johnson, and threw seven of his first dozen pitches outside the strike zone. But that was the night's anomaly. He faced the minimum through five innings and no SeaWolves batter found his way past first base until Tony Plagman doubled to start the sixth. (Plagman got as far as third on a sacrifice)

"I had a rough first inning, so I sat down and thought about what I was doing wrong," Wheeler said. "I made a physical adjustment and it helped me get through the game.

"When I was bringing my leg up, my front shoulder was flying open, so I was leaving pitches up. It's been a problem, but I've been able to fix it."

The 22-year-old right-hander gave up six hits. He threw 75 of 106 pitches -- three off his season high -- for strikes and recorded 12 outs on the ground.

His 30th and final batter, Nick Castellanos, struck out on three pitches. The Tigers' No. 2 prospect went 0-for-4 and fanned twice.

"He was having trouble with the slider and me and my catcher, [Francisco] Pena, were on the same page," Wheeler said. "I think I threw him sliders in every at bat, and he wasn't hitting it."

In addition, Wheeler said his two-seam fastball was moving, his curve was breaking and his changeup was baffling. Oh, and that heater of his registered as high as 97 mph on the stadium radar gun. With his best stuff, he said, "I was going right at the guys.

"I knew my pitch count was down because I had some quick innings. I came in [the dugout after] the eighth and figured it was my last inning. They didn't say anything to me, so I knew I had the ninth," he continued. "It feels good to get. I've never had a nine-inning complete game, not even in high school, pro ball. Never thought I'd get a complete game because I was never productive in my pitch counts, innings counts."

Wheeler, drafted sixth overall by the Giants in 2009 and traded to the Mets last year for All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran, had not pitched into the ninth once in his three-year pro career. He set his single-game high at eight frames in a May 23 win at New Britain.

Through 16 starts, the Georgia high school product has managed the Eastern League's second-best ERA (2.39) -- trailing only Richmond's Chris Heston (2.24), who has made 17 starts. Wheeler's numbers took a tumble just before the All-Star break, when he was charged with 12 runs on 17 hits in back-to-back outings. Thanks to keeping his front (left) shoulder closed, he's back on track.

And that All-Star break wasn't much of one; working with his ironed-out mechanics, Wheeler retired both batters he faced at the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday and he was selected for but did not pitch in the Eastern League All-Star game on Wednesday. What question was he asked most by fans and fellow players at both stops?

"Everybody's like, 'When ya gonna move up? When ya gonna move up?" he said.

Reese Havens, New York's No. 7 prospect, produced the game's only run with a sixth-inning solo shot off SeaWolves starter James Avery.

"He made a great play [two innings] before," Wheeler said of Havens, who started a double play in the fourth, one of three B-Mets' twin killings. "And then he gets me the run I needed. He's my player of the game."

Avery (9-7) walked three, allowed four hits and struck out five over 5 2/3 innings.

With excellent results on the mound -- Cory Mazzoni pitched seven-inning shutout Friday night -- Binghamton has taken three straight games from Erie. The clubs wrap their five-game series on Sunday afternoon.

Andrew Pentis is a contributor to MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at AndrewMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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