Zack Wheeler making progress in rehab from Tommy John surgery

Zack Wheeler is throwing on flat ground at 70-75 feet as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

ATLANTA -- Right-hander Zack Wheeler is visiting the New York Mets at Turner Field during the series against the Braves while spending a couple of weeks in his native Atlanta.

Wheeler is throwing on flat ground at 70-75 feet as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery. He still intends to return to the majors in June or July of 2016.

Because of weather and other considerations, Wheeler plans to spend the bulk of the offseason rehabbing at the Mets' complex in Port St. Lucie, Florida.

Reliever Buddy Carlyle, who makes his home in Atlanta, also is visiting the Mets this series. Carlyle had surgery in June to repair a hip labrum. The typical recovery time is 4 1/2 to six months. Carlyle, 37, last appeared for the Mets on May 11.

Condolences: Reliever Hansel Robles is away from the team on Thursday. Robles traveled to the Dominican Republic after a death in his family.

Closer Jeurys Familia and primary setup man Tyler Clippard also will unavailable in the series opener against the Braves because of heavy usage this week. That might result in Addison Reed as the closer on Thursday.

Wrist watch: Manager Terry Collins originally hoped to have Michael Cuddyer in the starting lineup on Friday for the first time since Sept. 1. However, left-hander Manny Banuelos has been scratched from that start and the Braves might use all right-handed starters in the series. That development, combined with slow healing of Cuddyer's right wrist, leaves it iffy whether Cuddyer will start a game in Atlanta.

Collins does hope to get Cuddyer some at-bats against the Braves, because the manager plans to start Cuddyer against the one or two southpaws the Mets will see in the next series, which begins Monday at Citi Field against the Miami Marlins.

Collins noted that while Cuddyer is swinging a bat, he was wearing a splint on the ailing wrist during Wednesday's game at Nationals Park. Cuddyer received a cortisone injection on Sunday.

Rest and relaxation: Jacob deGrom is on track to make Tuesday's start against the Marlins at Citi Field on schedule. Still, Collins reiterated his intention to give deGrom extra rest at some point this month -- even if it is not a full rotation turn that is skipped. Collins believes deGrom can benefit from a "little break" because "the location is missing." Collins similarly thinks Jonathon Niese could use extra rest.

"We're going to try to get everybody some," Collins said.

Logan Verrett is expected to start for skipped Matt Harvey on Monday.

Just a reminder: During the pregame scouting meeting Thursday, Collins planned to remind the club not to have a letdown against the Braves after an emotional sweep of the Washington Nationals that opened a seven-game division lead. Still, Collins thinks the players are mature enough to recognize the importance without that reminder.

"I've been around these guys," the manager said. "I don't think they're naive."