MIAMI - Mets lefthander Steven Matz took his first step on the road to recovery Monday when he played catch for the first time since going on the disabled list with a partially torn lat muscle in his left side.
Manager Terry Collins said Matz played catch at a distance of 60 feet. The former Ward Melville star could be ready to return in roughly a month, though the team does not have a firm timetable.
"Very positive, very positive," Collins said. "No problems. I saw him the other day and he felt great. He couldn't wait to get back out and start playing catch, which he did today. So that's a good step."
After two excellent starts for the Mets, Matz, 24, was shut down on July 9. He did not throw for a little more than three weeks, which matched the team's initial estimate.
In those first two major-league starts, Matz quickly established himself in the starting rotation. He beat the Reds and Dodgers and had a 1.32 ERA in 132/3 innings.
Though Matz has resumed throwing, he still must work through a careful progression before he gets back on a mound. "It's going to be a little while," assistant general manager John Ricco said.
After tinkering with a six-man alignment, the Mets have remained in a traditional five-man rotation since Matz landed on the disabled list. His return would help the Mets keep their other starting pitchers within their innings limits.
On Sunday, Collins indicated that there is no guarantee that Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom will avoid a Steven Strasburg-like shutdown late in the year. But one day later, he softened that stance somewhat.
"The easiest answer to that,'' Collins said, "is to say, yeah, we'll do the best we can to make sure everybody's OK."
Innings limits could loom large if the Mets continue to make their first postseason push since the collapse of 2008.
As a way to conserve innings, Collins said the Mets again are weighing the addition of a spot starter, though it won't happen during the team's six-game road trip against the Marlins and Rays.
Said Collins: "They'll be OK.''
Notes & quotes: Michael Cuddyer (bone bruise, left knee) ran and participated in some baseball activities at the team's complex in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Cuddyer could return as soon as this weekend . . . David Wright joined the team in Miami, though he will break off on Wednesday to continue his rehab program in Port St. Lucie . . . Rehabbing righthander Zack Wheeler (Tommy John surgery) drove from Port St. Lucie to join the Mets Monday . . . Lucas Duda and Syndergaard shared the NL's player of the week award.