Zack Wheeler achieves 'big milestone' with tosses off mound

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- New York Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler made 10 throws from the slope of a mound Saturday. It marked his first time tossing a baseball from an incline since he underwent Tommy John surgery last March 25.

"As small as it was, it's a big milestone," Wheeler said afterward. "...Even if it was like seven throws off the front of the mound, it's still feet on the dirt, getting back off the slope a little bit.

"It might be small, but it's big for me."

Wheeler initially expected to return to a mound in January. But after Matt Harvey had such success with an elongated rehab process, Mets officials have decided to duplicate it with Wheeler. He is targeted to return to the majors around July 1, roughly 15 months after surgery.

"I was sort of playing it safe in the first place, and then they came along with this," Wheeler said about the lengthier rehab process. "That's fine with me. It's only going to help me in the future. Obviously, I'd rather be back out there sooner than later, but sometimes things take time. It's a big surgery that I had, so it's good to take time now rather than later."

Asked if Harvey's success in his first season back after Tommy John surgery was reassuring, Wheeler added: "Well, everybody is different in their comebacks. I know [Steven] Matz had some problems coming back. And Harv and [Jacob] deGrom, they did pretty well coming back. So it's a process. It's different with everybody. Everybody reacts differently to the surgery."

Mets officials have indicated that they plan to use a six-man rotation for a turn or two once Wheeler returns to the majors. Afterward, assuming everyone is healthy, Bartolo Colon likely is headed to the bullpen.

"Once I do get back to that point, I'll be 100 percent and ready to roll, and hopefully jump right back in there in full stride -- pitching well, recovering well," Wheeler said.