After Zack Wheeler displayed significant improvement in his past two starts for Triple-A Las Vegas, it was time to ask if the team’s timetable to promote its top prospect to the major leagues had accelerated.

Different Mets officials offered slightly different answers and timetables on Thursday, but it is clear that the organization is encouraged by Wheeler’s progress, and seeking the right moment for his major league debut.

“Oh, the timetable has accelerated a lot,” said one club official. “He’s had two good ones, and if he has two more, you’ll see him up here. If all goes well we’re talking about June 1 at the latest.”

Not so fast on that date, though: A separate high-ranking team source characterized June 1 as “a little aggressive. We’re still taking it start-to-start.”
So while a definitive plan has not been determined, the Mets are watching Wheeler’s every pitch, and expecting him to join the rotation sooner than later.

The team has never been overly concerned about keeping Wheeler (above, photo by Howard Simmons/New York Daily News) in the minors through mid-to-late June in order to avoid becoming an expensive “Super Two” player, a distinction in salary arbitration determined by big league service time. Although financial considerations are not entirely irrelevant, Mets people insist the decision will be based largely on Wheeler’s readiness.

Just two weeks ago, the 22-year-old seemed far from promotion. Through five starts, he had no wins, a 5.79 earned run average, and trouble throwing strikes. The Daily News’ John Harper traveled to Reno to investigate, and Wheeler attributed his struggles to the difficulties of pitching in the dry air of the Pacific Coast League.

Those comments did not impress many Mets officials, who already had concerns about Wheeler’s maturity. In spring training, he threw at a teammate in an intrasquad game, and some club officials felt that he lacked the focus that has propelled Matt Harvey to early-career greatness - although no one, inside or outside the organization, doubted Wheeler’s prodigious talent.