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Minors RBI leader Wheeler debuts with D-backs

PHOENIX -- Searching for more offensive production, the D-backs recalled Minor League RBI leader Ryan Wheeler from Triple-A Reno on Friday and released veteran Geoff Blum.

Wheeler, a third baseman, was a Pacific Coast League midseason All-Star and was leading the Minors with 90 RBIs while batting .351 with 15 homers in 93 games.

The 24-year-old made his Major League debut on Friday batting eighth and playing third against the Astros with eight to 12 family members in attendance.

He collected his first career hit in the seventh inning on a single to center field and later scored. Television cameras caught Wheeler's parents in the stands becoming emotional while watching their son.

"For them to see me out there in a D-backs uniform, it's special," Wheeler said. "I've called them every night to let them know how games have gone."

As for the ball Wheeler hit for the single, he hadn't gotten it back by the time the game was over, but if he does recover it, it will go straight home.

"I didn't get the ball, I don't know what happened to the ball, I gotta find it," he said "I'm sure my mom will have some type of stand at my house."

On Thursday night, Reno manager Brett Butler surprised Wheeler with the news of his promotion after the Aces won.

"He told me he needed to talk to me in his office. I started to try to talk then he said, 'Wheels, forget that, I don't care, congratulations, you're going to the big leagues tomorrow,'" Wheeler said. "It threw me off. You can never expect it, the moment was perfect. I froze for a second and then I took it in. I looked back and everyone had their hands stretched out to shake mine. It happened fast, but I'm happy to be here."

Wheeler didn't know he was starting until he ran into D-backs manager Kirk Gibson on the elevator ride down to the clubhouse on Friday afternoon.

"He asked me if I was ready to play tonight and I said 'Of course,'" Wheeler said. "That obviously was exciting. I don't know what exactly is in store for me here. It doesn't matter to me, I'm just happy to be here.

The D-backs selected Wheeler in the fifth round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft from Loyola Marymount University. He was named the D-backs co-Player of the Month for June and the June Topps Player of the Month for the Pacific Coast League after hitting .442 (50-for-113).

"He's had a great year down in Triple-A," Gibson said. "He's matured quite a bit since the last time we saw him in the spring. In all aspects of his game, he's worked hard. He's evolving as a player and into someone we've decided to give an opportunity to help us get to where we are going."

Even though statistics often get inflated in the Pacific Coast League, with high elevations and hitter-friendly ballparks, Wheeler believes the way he attacks pitchers will translate to the next level.

"My power numbers weren't off the charts, I just kept a good approach and put a lot of balls up the middle, those hits work here, too" Wheeler said. "I think if I stick with what I'm doing, I'll be fine. I've always been a gap-to-gap guy."

Although he will receive consistent playing time, the D-backs did not call up Wheeler to be their immediate everyday third baseman. Ryan Roberts and Willie Bloomquist will continue to see time at the position.

"We'll get him into the rotation and try to put him into situations where he'll be successful in," Gibson said. "I'll still continue to play everybody. We'll play him tonight and we'll see how it goes, I don't want to overwhelm him."

Blum hit .143 in 17 games for the D-backs this season. The 39-year-old was sidelined from April 18 to July 1 with a strained left oblique.

The 14-year big league veteran broke the news of his release earlier in the day via Twitter.

"Later today @Dbacks will announce my release. I am grateful for the opportunity I was given here. #Dbacks," Blum tweeted on his account, @blummer27.

Arizona Diamondbacks, Geoff Blum, Ryan Wheeler