PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Zack Wheeler offered more promising signs that he has moved past his latest speed bump. The Mets righthander threw about 30 pitches in a bullpen session on Wednesday, his second since he was slowed by discomfort in his surgically repaired right elbow.
“Best I’ve seen him throw down here,” manager Terry Collins said. “The ball came out really well today.”
Wheeler is hoping to pitch in the big leagues for the first time since 2014 after a complicated rehab from Tommy John surgery. The righthander said he threw at around 85-percent capacity and came away with no issues.
“It was really impressive,” Collins said. “He threw some breaking balls today for the first time. That was a real big step forward for him.”
Though the Grapefruit League season begins on Friday against the Red Sox, members of the Mets’ projected starting rotation won’t begin pitching in exhibition games until around March 5. Wheeler, meanwhile, may pitch in games a few days later.
Collins said Wheeler must still go through the process of ramping up for game action. While others in camp have already thrown live batting practice, it’s a hurdle Wheeler has yet to clear.
“He’ll be in some Grapefruit League games, there’s no question,” Collins said. “Now I think we’re going to be careful when that starts.”
The Mets will be sending a large contingent to the World Baseball Classic, with 10 players on the 40-man roster expected to compete, including Jose Reyes and closer Jeurys Familia.
Keeping the potential for injuries in mind, Collins said he has already been in contact with coaches from various WBC teams to discuss usage, which is of particular importance to the pitchers scheduled to participate.
Said Collins: “There’s so much focus now on the fact that guys are afraid to play in it because of health that teams are doing a real good job of monitoring the use and innings limits.”