Steven Matz will take a big step toward returning to the Mets when he makes a rehab assignment with Class A St. Lucie in Jupiter, Florida, on Saturday.
The former Ward Melville star was shut down with a partial tear in his left lat muscle after his second major-league start July 5. He is 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA in 132/3 career innings, allowing seven hits and two runs.
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Matz also boasted a .500 batting average with three hits and five RBIs in six plate appearances.
"Well, it'll be a little more of a process," Mets manager Terry Collins said Friday of Matz's carefully laid-out path back to the majors. "He's going to throw 25 in the game and 15 more in the bullpen. He's not going to come here until we know he can throw 90 pitches at least and be safe."
Time, after all, is something the National League East-leading Mets can afford at this point. They entered the day with a 4 1/2-game lead on the Nationals.
Outfielder Michael Cuddyer rehabbed with St. Lucie last week and said he saw Matz play catch.
"I know he was in good spirits and excited to get back healthy," Cuddyer said.
He added that Matz, 24, is a threat when healthy and is similar to the rest of the Mets' young rotation.
"I mean, plus stuff that commands the zone and he brings it with an added wrinkle from the left side," Cuddyer said. "Hopefully he feels good . . . and is able to come join us here in a little bit."
Collins said Matz could break up the Mets' current pitching block of righthanders Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. But that's a decision that will be made in September, Collins said, because Matz is still taking baby steps.
"My guess is in five more days, it will probably go to 50 [pitches] and maybe 10 more in the bullpen," Collins said. "I don't know what the whole setup is going to be, but it'll be a couple of weeks for sure."