Let’s be clear, this is not meant as a permanent move to the bullpen, but rather one simply for the remainder of 2014. Matt Harvey, the Mets ace who underwent Tommy John surgery on October 22, 2013 is trying desperately to pitch this year. He recently began throwing off of a mound, which puts his timetable of possibly pitching somewhere in the next month or two. Whether he actually pitches or not is still a matter of great debate.
On one side you have Terry Collins, Sandy Alderson, the Mets training staff and now even Harvey’s agent, Scott Boras. They are all preaching the conservative approach toward Harvey returning to the mound. ESPN quotes Boras as saying:
“The doctors are always telling us 14 to 16 months they’re having the higher success rates than they are the 10- to 12-month period,” Boras said. “So is that a definitive measure? The doctors will always tell you they’re unsure. But with elite athletes, high ‘velo’ guys, to err on conservatism and more time I think is the proper course.”
Scott Boras is, of course, protecting his client who could be looking at a monumental contract in the future if Harvey comes back healthy. If the pitcher’s competitive spirit gets the better of him though, it could be another year of recovery from injury, and another year lost from making money. And Boras likes making money.
Let’s us now assume that Harvey will pitch again in 2014. In what capacity, though? As everyone is concerned over re-injury, the most likely course would be for Harvey to start off slow, and build up his arm-strength. Rehab cannot compare to pitching in a real game, where tensions and emotions are high, and pitchers sometimes overthrow out of nervousness or passion. We saw Harvey do it during last year’s All-Star game in Flushing. If he pops back onto the mound in say, late-August, throwing 96 mph, most fans would be holding their collective breath.
Harvey is going to do what he wants on the mound, and there isn’t much anyone can do to stop him. You can’t tell a guy to throw 90 mph when he wants to throw harder. That’s why the bullpen might be the best outlet to allow Harvey to come back. By putting him in the bullpen for the remainder of 2014, it would give Collins and Alderson a more controlled atmosphere for them to oversee Harvey’s progression. That way, he can air out his arm, if just for one batter or inning at a time.
If Harvey shows no ill effects from his injury and can build off of that one batter or inning, then perhaps by the end of the season, depending on where the Mets stand in the playoff race, he might be able to start a game. This seems like the best environment to try and temper the aggressive nature of Harvey’s personality, at least for now. Next year is another story.
This all hinges on many factors. Harvey has progressed well through his long recovery process, and seems ahead of schedule. It’s hard to believe that less than one year ago, Mets fans’ hopes of being competitive sooner rather than later were delivered a huge blow. To see Harvey push himself to get back onto the mound, only to re-injury himself would crush those dreams even further, and possibly derail his entire career.
It seems like everyone but Harvey is preaching the conservative track, but eventually he is going to have to pitch. Whether that is this year or next remains to be seen. The Mets are on a hot pace right now, and the offense has really come alive of late. Does that impact us being buyer or sellers at the trade deadline? Does that mean Harvey might be coming into important games late in the season? Does that then change how Collins and Alderson handle his progression? Too many questions to answer definitely at this moment. If he comes back this year, the bullpen might be the best place to get that arm up to speed. But that is a long way off still. For now, all Mets fans can do is cheer on this suddenly smoking team, and hope that everyone acts in the best interest of continued and future success.
The Dark Knight is known for punishing his body for the sake of his goals. In this one case, let’s hope Harvey isn’t quite so much like his comic book alter-ego.