PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Top Mets pitching prospect Zack Wheeler threw off a mound Thursday for the first time since he was shut down about a week ago with a strained right oblique.

Though the 22-year-old will start the season with Triple-A Las Vegas, the club hopes to have him pitch in exhibition games before the end of camp.

"Everybody wants to be in a game at this point in spring training," said Wheeler, who threw about 35 pitches.

In his only appearance Feb. 23 against the Nationals, Wheeler tossed two shutout innings. But he was scratched from his scheduled start Feb. 27 when he strained his oblique taking batting practice.

Wheeler, who said he felt pain-free Thursday for the first time since suffering the injury, might rest for a few days before throwing again. He will continue to get treatment for his oblique as a preventive measure.


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Francisco to mound?

Frank Francisco said he might throw off the mound in the next two or three days, his first such action since reporting to camp. Nevertheless, his readiness for Opening Day remains doubtful.

"I'm going to try my best and I'm working really hard to be ready for April 1," said Francisco, who is working his way back from right elbow inflammation, though he appears destined to begin the season on the disabled list.


Extra bases

Jenrry Mejia is expected to return to camp Friday with no limitations. He had been in New York for tests related to an issue raised in his initial physical . . . In his exhibition debut, lefty Pedro Feliciano retired the only two batters he faced in the Mets' 4-1 win over the Marlins . . . Kirk Nieuwenhuis (bone bruise, left knee) has progressed to running in a swimming pool.