ATLANTA -- Within a month of his anticipated return to the big leagues, Zack Wheeler dodged a significant setback in his rehab from Tommy John surgery.
Mets doctors diagnosed Wheeler -- who ceased throwing this week and abandoned a scheduled simulated inning due to arm discomfort -- with sensory nerve irritation in his right elbow. The joint is otherwise in normal condition, and the Mets hope Wheeler can return to throwing after receiving a cortisone shot Wednesday in the elbow.
The news comes two months after Wheeler suffered a mild rehab setback, undergoing an operation to remove an undissolved stitch from his elbow. That prompted the Mets to push back Wheeler's return target from July 1 until just after the All-Star break. The team has not updated it again following Wheeler's diagnosis, but the news is positive for a team that feared further structural damage inside his elbow.
Wheeler, 26, underwent Tommy John surgery in March 2015. He went 11-11 with a 3.54 ERA in his first and only full season in 2014, and is expected to rejoin the rotation immediately upon his return. The Mets could shift Bartolo Colon to the bullpen at that time, but have already discussed at least temporarily employing a six-man rotation.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.