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Zack Wheeler expected to begin rehab assignment Saturday

The right-hander hasn’t pitched in a game since March 2015.

Miami Marlins v New York Mets Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

After facing live batters yesterday for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery, Zack Wheeler is ready to take the next big step in his recovery. On Saturday, Wheeler will begin a minor league rehab assignment, which is the last major hurdle to clear before he can return to pitching in the big leagues.

On Monday Wheeler threw a simulated game in Port St. Lucie, which comprised 23 pitches to real human hitters and featured a fastball that sat in the 91-93 MPH range. Wheeler last pitched in March 2015, some 17 months ago, before opting for the surgery that has kept him off the field for almost a year and a half.

Wheeler’s rehab assignment will begin with the High-A St. Lucie Mets, after which he’ll likely face more advanced competition up the organizational ladder. If all goes well, Wheeler could be back pitching with the Mets before too long.

With Matt Harvey out for the season and Logan Verrett not exactly flourishing in Harvey’s place, any spark from a Wheeler return would be a welcome addition to the starting rotation.