Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Wheeler Prepared to Make First Spring Start in 2 Years

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Wheeler Prepared to Make First Spring Start in 2 Years

Article excerpt

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Zack Wheeler's disappointment seeped out in conversations.

The starter had hoped to return from Tommy John surgery last year, but ultimately missed his second straight season due to setbacks. When he conversed with Mets manager Terry Collins about the roadblocks, the Mets manager sensed the lingering disappointment.

"I feel terrible for him," Collins said Thursday afternoon. "It's always something that kept him from making a huge step forward. Now, he's back, and we've got to be smart enough to know it's going to take a little time to get him back to where he was two years ago."

Wheeler is once again working toward returning to the majors, and the 25-year-old takes an important step today when he pitches in his first Grapefruit League game in two years against Atlanta in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Wheeler is slotted to throw roughly 25-30 pitches in the split-squad game.

He did not want to comment Thursday about the outing.

"That first pitch of the game is probably going to be really important for him," Collins said.

Wheeler has endured a rocky rehab since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015, but there is light at the end of tunnel since he's ready to start making Grapefruit League outings.

The righty had hoped to already be part of the Mets rotation by now, but last season did not go as planned for him. The Mets expected him back around the All-Star break, but his rehab progressed slower than expected. Soon after he made his first rehab outing in early August, he was diagnosed with a mild flexor strain, and that essentially ended any chance he had of returning.

Wheeler even endured a tough start to camp this year when he experienced tenderness after his first bullpen session, but has not had any problems since. His outing will not come in front of Collins since the Mets manager is staying in Port St. Lucie with Matt Harvey slated to start.

"I'm glad he's getting back out there," Collins said. "He'll do fine if he just keeps himself under control and doesn't try to overthrow. …

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