Mets manager Terry Collins confirms Zack Wheeler will start the season at Triple-A Las Vegas

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It’s not really a big surprise, but Mets manager Terry Collins confirmed on Saturday that top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler will open the 2013 season with the club’s Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas.

“He needs to go to Triple-A and pitch,” Collins told reporters at Mets camp in Port St. Lucie, Florida. “He wants to be on the staff? Go be the best pitcher in Triple-A. Force us to call him up.”

Wheeler, who was acquired in 2011 from the Giants for Carlos Beltran, posted a 3.26 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 148/59 K/BB in 149 innings last season between the Double-A and Triple-A levels. He was Baseball America‘s No. 8 prospect this winter.

The 22-year-old right-hander seems likely to make his major league debut in early 2013.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.