PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- It may have only lasted for a little less than three minutes, but the time spent throwing off the slope of the mound Saturday represented a huge milestone for Zack Wheeler.Consider it progress to eventually throwing a bullpen, then ultimately returning to the Mets' rotation,
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- It may have only lasted for a little less than three minutes, but the time spent throwing off the slope of the mound Saturday represented a huge milestone for Zack Wheeler.
Consider it progress to eventually throwing a bullpen, then ultimately returning to the Mets' rotation, which the team is targeting for around July 1.
"It's a long process, but something like this, just getting your feet dirty again, back on the mound, it's big for me personally," Wheeler said. "It might be small, but it's big for me."
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Wheeler made 32 starts during his first full season in 2014, then underwent Tommy John surgery last March after tests revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. The Mets built a roughly 15-month plan for Wheeler to return to pitching in games, mirroring the time frame Matt Harvey missed after his surgery.
"We have made a very important decision not to rush it back," manager Terry Collins said. "So we've kind of stuck to this 15-month plan. … That's when they think they have the most success rate, after that amount of time."
Since Wheeler was cleared to throw late last summer, he has been throwing exclusively off flat ground. Wheeler knows the milestones will come in small, tedious steps, but he is comfortable playing it safe.
"Obviously I'd rather be back out there sooner than later, but sometimes things take time," Wheeler said. "It's a big surgery that I had. It's good to take time now rather than later."
Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.