After spending the last two seasons in Triple-A Colorado Springs, Tim Wheeler believes he has what it takes to be a Major Leaguer. Now, he is trying to play well enough in the Arizona Fall League to convince everyone else he deserves that opportunity.
Wheeler did his best Thursday to show he has the ability to play at the highest level, going 5-for-5 with two doubles as Salt River defeated Surprise, 10-0, at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
Wheeler said he hopes his big game is the start of a strong finish to the AFL season.
"I want to keep trying to prove I'm a big leaguer because I know I am," he said.
Thursday was by far Wheeler's best game of the fall. The Rockies' No. 10 prospect entered the day hitting .240 with a pair of extra-base hits. Wheeler's five hits matched the league's single-game high this season.
Wheeler said his approach at the plate was the key to his success.
"I did a good job of using the whole field," he said. "It just worked out today."
Wheeler was one of four Rafters who had multiple hits against the Saguaros. Jacob Wilson went 2-for-4 with a three-run home run and four RBIs. The Rafters took the lead in the second inning on Wilson's home run and, with Drew Hutchison pitching, it would prove to be all they would need.
Hutchison continued his dominant fall as he recovers from Tommy John surgery with five scoreless innings. The Blue Jays' right-hander allowed two hits and struck out three batters. In four starts this fall, Hutchison has a 0.57 ERA in 15 2/3 innings.
After Hutchison left the game, four relievers combined to finish the shutout against the league's highest-scoring offense. Wheeler said all five pitchers were impressive.
"Hutchison has done a good job for us every time he's pitched," Wheeler said. "We played some good defense behind them, but everyone did a good job throwing their fastball for strikes and then throwing their secondary stuff to keep them off balance."
The Saguaros entered the day averaging 6.3 runs per game. Thursday, they could manage just four hits. Jorge Alfaro, the Rangers' top prospect, went 2-for-4 with a double. Tyler Naquin, the Indians' No. 5 prospect, and Brett Nicholas had the other hits.
Wheeler, meanwhile, outhit Surprise. And aided by his five-hit day, Salt River has won six of its last seven games.
After starting the season 2-6, Wheeler said the Rafters have done a good job of coming together as a team.
"We've got a group of guys that just enjoys playing together," Wheeler said. "We're pushing each other, and we go out expecting a win every time."