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Mets’ Zack Wheeler still on track for July return

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Sep 19, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler (45) throws a pitch against the Atlanta Braves in the fourth inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 19, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; New York Mets starting pitcher Zack Wheeler (45) throws a pitch against the Atlanta Braves in the fourth inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
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Wheeler has been rehabbing from Tommy John surgery

Mets right-handed pitcher Zack Wheeler is expected to increase his activity in the next few weeks and is still on track for a return around July 1.

Wheeler, who had Tommy John surgery last March, had a minor procedure on his right forearm on April 12 to remove a suture knot that was residue remaining from the Tommy John surgery.

He had resumed his throwing program on April 27.

It was reported in late-April that Wheeler is healing well and that his most recent MRI came back “super clean.”

As noted by the Daily News, Wheeler’s Tommy John operation was more complicated than most, because it also involved part of his tendon.

Wheeler delivered his first post-surgery pitch from the top of a mound on March 15 during a bullpen session in Port St. Lucie.

The Mets said during Spring Training that they actually slowed Wheeler’s rehab down in an effort to give him a layoff similar to the one Matt Harvey had before returning from his own Tommy John surgery last season.

If Wheeler returns in July as expected, he’ll have gone roughly 15 months between surgery and throwing his next competitive pitch. Harvey went a bit over 17 months between competitive pitches.

Since Wheeler is on target to return around midseason, there likely won’t be an innings restriction in place for him. However, Terry Collins said during Spring Training that the team could utilize a six-man rotation a few times.

When Wheeler comes back — barring any brief six-man rotation, it’s expected that Bartolo Colon will move to the bullpen, where he had success last year during the postseason.

With the way Colon has pitched this season and even factoring in his cult hero status, it may be tough to shift him to the pen. But he’s handled it in the past and did extremely well working out of the bullpen for the Mets last year during the playoffs.

Next: Neil Walker could return on Wednesday

Meanwhile, there’s no reason for the Mets to ponder moving Wheeler to the pen instead — both because it would be dangerous with him coming off major surgery and because he won’t have an innings limit upon his return.

Once Wheeler takes his place in the rotation, he’ll join Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Steven Matz, giving the Mets all five of their young ace-caliber pitchers in the same rotation for the first time.

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