Before he left the major-league clubhouse for the final time this spring, Zack Wheeler stopped by Matt Harvey’s locker and gave him a quick hug goodbye. Harvey had simple words of comfort.
“It won’t be long,” Harvey told Wheeler.
The Mets’ top pitching prospect was sent to the minor-league complex Sunday morning before the Mets left for Jupiter to face the Cardinals. It was not a surprising move, but that did not make it any easier for the 22-year-old Wheeler.
“My goal was to make it out of spring training,” Wheeler said. “Now I’ve got another goal. That is to be up here as soon as possible,” Wheeler said. “When I am ready, I’ll be up here, hopefully that is sooner than later.”
Wheeler, the key to the Mets’ trade that sent Carlos Beltran to the Giants in 2011, had his chances to make the team quashed by a oblique injury. He was scratched from his Feb. 27 start with a strained right oblique after just one Grapefruit League appearance. “I am not happy,” Wheeler said. “The injury set me back a little bit, I only got out there one time. That’s what I am kind of mad about. I wanted to get out there and prove myself.”
Sunday, Wheeler faced batters for the first time since that injury. He threw 27 pitches, including two pitch-outs, to minor leaguers including former Cub Cory Patterson. His oblique felt fine. His fastball topped out at 95 mph, but he admitted he did not have command.
“It felt good, but my timing was off a little bit and stuff like that, so a lot of my pitches weren’t crisp,” Wheeler said. “I’ve only thrown two innings in a game to live batters. It’s kind of different once they get up there. It’s something that will come around.”
Next he will start a minor-league game and begin building up to 70 pitches, the goal for the start of the season.


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