NEW YORK -- Terry Collins wants Zack Wheeler to learn how to pitch late in games, but the bigger priority this year is to make sure Wheeler can pitch late in the season.
So even though Collins allowed Wheeler to throw a 111-pitch complete-game shutout last week in Miami, don't expect the New York Mets manager to similarly extend his 24-year-old right-hander in Wednesday night's Citi Field start against the Oakland Athletics -- or in most other starts.
New York Mets
"I think we'll be a little more cautious," Collins said. "There are still three and half months to go."
The Mets won't say what Wheeler's innings limit is for the season, but he does have one. And Collins said Wednesday that it's a priority for him that Wheeler doesn't reach that limit and need to be shut down before the end of the season.
"I'm going to try to monitor it so he gets through September, because I think it would be good for him to finish the year," Collins said. "That's the way you learn."
Wheeler has already pitched 87 innings in 15 starts, with the Mets three games short of the halfway point in their schedule. That leaves Wheeler on pace to exceed the 168 2/3 he pitched last year, but not by too much.
The only way to keep him there is to keep Wheeler somewhere around the six innings a start he has averaged for the first half of the season. That only becomes an issue if Wheeler pitches better than he has, but Collins would like to think that last week's start against the Marlins is a sign that's going to start to happen.
"You always hope guys with his ability step up and take control of the league right away, but that doesn't always happen," Collins said. "I think after what we saw the other day, he's ready to do that.
"I'm hoping that last start gets him going to where four out of five can be like that."
But you can guarantee that Wheeler won't be going nine innings in four out of five starts, or coming anywhere close to it.
Right now, it's more important to get him late into September than late into games.