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.