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Mets eyeing July 1 for Zack Wheeler's return

NEW YORK -- Fifteen months is now the New York Mets' standard rehab time for a starting pitcher after undergoing Tommy John surgery. So team officials have informed right-hander Zack Wheeler that the club is now targeting July 1 for his first major league action since the elbow procedure.

Wheeler underwent Tommy John surgery on March 25, 2015.

He is rehabbing at the Mets’ complex in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Wheeler initially expected to begin throwing off a mound in January, but the Mets slowed him down.

“It could accelerate a little bit, but we feel real comfortable with that. And I know he does as well,” general manager Sandy Alderson said about the July 1 target date. “He felt that he could have come back sooner than that, but we backed him off. So he really hasn’t thrown off a mound. He hasn’t thrown off a slope. We just said, ‘Let’s cool it.’”

The deliberate pace with Wheeler is in large part a product of the success of Matt Harvey's return from Tommy John surgery after a 15-month rehab process.

“After talking with the doctors, and in light of our experience with Matt Harvey, we just felt that 15 months -- thereabouts -- was more appropriate for a return than 12,” Alderson said. “Zack will have the benefit of a shorter season. So it’s not as if we’re looking for him to perform at Matt’s level, or at the amount of innings he pitched. I think, right now, we and doctors -- and not just our doctors, but doctors generally -- are looking for starting pitchers that a little longer recovery is more appropriate than the previous 12 months or so.”