Oct 29

Mets’ Matt Harvey Reports Progress After Surgery

While watching those hot young arms the St. Louis Cardinals are showcasing to the nation during the World Series, no doubt you might be wondering about the Mets’ Matt Harvey.

Six days after undergoing Tommy John surgery, while attending Monday night’s Rangers’ home opener at Madison Square Garden, Harvey told the Daily News he was ahead of schedule.

HARVEY: Reports progress.

HARVEY: Reports progress.

Before getting too excited you must remember Harvey – who did not study medicine at the University of North Carolina – also announced surgery wasn’t necessary before he realized it might be the only way he misses one season instead of two.

“I am just doing range of motion stuff now, but today was the first day I could take the bandages off and I was at Hospital for Special Surgery working and everybody thinks I am ahead of schedule,’’ Harvey said. “We were able to straighten it today and I think they were surprised I could do that, already. So the rehab is ahead of schedule.’’

Yes, it would be great if Harvey could come back next September and pitch the Mets into the playoffs, but try not to get carried away.

Sure, Jenrry Mejia returned ten months after surgery, but he’s had a second surgery to remove bone spurs in his elbow.

All humans are different. They have different thresholds of pain; they recover differently and not always at the same rate. When it comes to pitchers and Tommy John surgery, it seems all pitchers get it and the recovery rate has been especially high. However, it isn’t a given Harvey’s recovery and rehab will fall into that category, especially considering his propensity for pushing himself. He did not report back discomfort this season and made several starts with soreness in his forearm before an MRI revealed a tear.

We can only hope for the best in that regard, and that the Mets aren’t seduced by encouraging news and attempt to push him. There could be setbacks and the best thing is to go on planning without him and hope for the best in 2015.

If nothing else, the World Series has demonstrated how much pitching outweighs hitting as far as being a team priority.

For all the talk about David Ortiz, remember the Red Sox took Games 4 and 5 on the strength of production from the non-descript Jonny Gomes and David Ross, and the pitching of a deep bullpen in Game 4 and Jon Lester in Game 5.

And, quite simply, the Cardinals are here based on their young arms. When enticed by teams to part with the likes of Zack Wheeler, Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard, general manager Sandy Alderson should note what the Cardinals have done with their pitching and what the Red Sox have done in patching their lineup with veteran, and relatively inexpensive, bats.

The Mets won 74 games this season, but before writing off 2014, remember only nine of those wins were by Harvey. He had 12 no-decisions. If the Mets can pick up a veteran arm in free-agency to compensate for those nine wins, and if Wheeler takes the next step and Jon Niese and Dillon Gee continue to improve, a .500 season, if not a winning year, is possible without diving into the deep end of the free-agent market and get stuck with a contract they’ll soon regret.

 

 

Oct 22

Mets’ All-Star Matt Harvey Undergoes Tommy John Surgery

The New York Mets announced this afternoon All-Star pitcher Matt Harvey underwent Tommy John surgery, with Dr. James Andrews performing in Gulf Breeze, Fla.

Harvey will miss the entire season.

HARVEY: Has the knife today.

HARVEY: Has the knife today.

Initially, Harvey wanted to attempt rest and rehab as treatment for the partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Harvey was even given Andrews’ blessing to try that first, but couldn’t build up the strength to resume throwing, let alone compete in the Arizona Fall League.

Harvey waffled on surgery for over a month, but in the end did what general manager Sandy Alderson thought he would. Alderson said he was careful not to influence Harvey’s decision, but once the All-Star starter opted for surgery he said it was the right choice.

Alderson admitted Harvey was taking a gamble that he would be healthy for spring training, then re-injure his elbow and miss the remainder of the 2014 season and all of 2015. Alderson described that as the worst possible scenario for the Mets.

All along, Alderson said Harvey’s condition wouldn’t impact the Mets’ offseason approach to their rotation. Alderson said not to expect the Mets to sign a marquee free agent pitcher despite him saying he had the resources. Instead, Alderson said the team would target two innings eaters for the back end of the rotation until Rafael Montero’s Super Two deadline is reached and he would be available by June.

The Mets’ current rotation is Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee, all with questions of their own. Niese is coming off a slightly torn rotator cuff; Wheeler was scratched from his last start with a sore shoulder and will be entering his first full season; and Gee, based on victories, is now the de facto No. 1.

The Mets also do not know whether Jenrry Mejia, who underwent elbow surgery to remove bone spurs will be available for the start of the season.

The innings-eaters Alderson is searching for could be Aaron Harang and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Both showed enough – especially Matsuzaka – to warrant being brought to spring training.

Trouble is, they also showed enough to other teams who might pry them away if the Mets lowballed them.

It sure is strange how things tend to turn around. Prior to Harvey’s injury the Mets were thinking about going to a six-man rotation to conserve innings for Harvey and Wheeler.

They are now looking for help.

Oct 04

Mets’ Matt Harvey Opts For Surgery; Alderson Relieved At Decision

The bad news the New York Mets hoped to avoid, but long suspected they would eventually face, was acknowledged this afternoon when Matt Harvey elected to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair a partially torn UCL that will force him to miss the entire 2014 season.

Harvey had been gradually considering surgery, and met with general manager Sandy Alderson to confirm. Alderson said he stayed away from Harvey as to not prejudice the decision.

HARVEY: Will take the knife. (AP)

HARVEY: Will take the knife. (AP)

“Matt came to this decision through the course of his rehab,” Alderson said this afternoon on a conference call. “He’s had quite a bit of time to think about it. I always assumed Matt would reach this conclusion. I felt this would be the right decision and I am happy Matt reached this decision.”

Had Harvey opted for surgery when he was initially injured, there was an outside chance he could have been available next September, but he was adamant in trying a six-to-eight week throwing program and rehabilitation in the hope of being ready for the season.

The timetable is for Harvey to have surgery performed by Dr. James Andrews will perform surgery by the end of the month and from there he should be ready for spring training, 2015.

Even so, this is the right decision for Harvey as it eliminates the possibility of starting the season, then blowing out his elbow and not only missing all of 2014, but also 2015. Alderson said that was a critical aspect for Harvey’s decision.

“That he might lose two seasons instead of one was definitely a factor,” Alderson said.

On Monday, before traveling to Florida for the Mets’ organizational meetings, Alderson said Harvey would have to show progress if he was to have a chance at pitching in the Arizona Fall League. It is hard to define progress when he hadn’t even started throwing. Harvey had been rehabbing at the Hospital of Special Surgery in Manhattan.

Harvey was magnificent while going 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA in 26 starts. He struck out 191 hitters in 178.1 innings with a microscopic 0.931 WHIP. However, the most amazing number with Harvey was a staggering 12 no-decisions.

Those are significant numbers to be removed from a rotation Alderson said is now three deep with Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee. Alderson indicated the Mets could bring back veterans Aaron Harang and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Alderson said the Mets aren’t likely to compensate for losing Harvey by signing a high profile free agent, but instead sign a mid-level veteran such a Bronson Arroyo. Alderson left open the possibility of a homegrown prospect such as Rafael Montero or Noah Syndergaard making the rotation out of spring training, but said that wasn’t a preferable option.

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Oct 01

Matt Harvey Major Topic In Mets’ Organizational Meetings

Matt Harvey is a major topic of discussion for the New York Mets’ front office as they began organizational meetings today in Port St. Lucie.

General manager Sandy Alderson must operate under the assumption Harvey will not be ready to start next season, and as he has yet to begin throwing, the Mets must prepare for the worst-case scenario.

Understandably, Harvey does not want surgery – who does? – and wants to rest and later rehab in the hope of being ready for spring training.

HARVEY: Mets can't bet on him for 2014.

HARVEY: Mets can’t bet on him for 2014.

“The fact that he’s not throwing now, I wouldn’t say is concerning, but we need to see some progress,’’ Alderson said. “I hope that he will be throwing shortly. I want to emphasize this isn’t a rehab program. This is a diagnostic program. We’ll see what happens.’’

If he doesn’t start throwing soon the diagnosis is this isn’t going to work and surgery should be forthcoming.

Harvey said in mid-September he would undergo a six-to-eight week throwing program instead of immediately having Tommy John surgery. That was over three weeks ago and Harvey hasn’t thrown yet. Alderson said pitching in the Arizona Fall League was a possibility, but appeared to back off that before leaving for Florida.

As of now, I would bet against Harvey pitching in Arizona.

If Harvey eventually opts for surgery he will miss most, if not all, of next season. The risk of eschewing surgery is if he starts 2014 and re-tears the ligament he would not only miss what would be left of next season but also 2015.

That means the Mets might not have him for two, instead of one year. If Harvey opts for surgery now there is a possibility he could return late next September and be ready for 2015.

Alderson said, “Harvey does influence what we do in the off-season.’’

Alderson said it isn’t likely the Mets would go after an upper-tier free-agent pitcher, but said they would explore going after an innings eater. He said bringing back Aaron Harang and/or Daisuke Matsuzaka are possibilities, noting he has only three givens in next year’s rotation: Jon Niese, Zack Wheeler and Dillon Gee.

The Mets should bring back both Harang and Matsuzaka, as both pitched well enough to warrant the spring training invite.

Alderson said Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard aren’t ready, but hopes a mid-level free agent “could get us to them.’’

Meanwhile, Harvey is working with physical therapists and isn’t close to being ready for the Arizona Fall League, which begins Oct. 8.

“He needs to throw to a near-competitive level, pain-free, and perhaps on more than one occasion,’’ Alderson said about Harvey being ready for the Fall League.

As of now, that’s not going to happen.

The Mets’ off-season plan as of now, and it is the right option, is to sign a mid-level free agent instead of trading their young pitching for a proven starter.

“We have to be careful we don’t turn a strength into a weakness,” Alderson said. “With Matt out, it makes it a little more difficult to give up two or three guys we know are right on the cusp.’’

It is not out of the possibility Alderson might entertain bringing back Johan Santana on a reduced salary, after they buy out his 2014 contract for $5.5 million.

Santana said he isn’t ready to retire, and nobody knows his physical condition better than the Mets.

“I think that’s a possibility,’’ Alderson said. “I don’t really know what Johan’s thinking. We’ll talk to him, I’m sure, over the next couple of weeks but I think he wants to pitch.

“We’ll just have to see what the market is for these guys and how much of our resources we want to allocate to somebody coming off injury or somebody you hope was able to pitch for you at a higher level.’’

If the Mets are to take a gamble on a pitcher coming off an injury, it makes more sense to talk to Santana – whom they know – rather than somebody they don’t know.

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Sep 24

Are Mets Making A Medical Mistake With Zack Wheeler?

When it comes to injuries, will the New York Mets ever learn? Zack Wheeler has been shut down for the season after complaining of shoulder stiffness last weekend in Philadelphia.

Smart move.

However, Wheeler was examined only by an on-call doctor at the park in Philly, and as of now hasn’t been examined by Mets’ doctors. So far, no MRI.

After what happened with Matt Harvey, who is facing Tommy John surgery after a sore forearm was neglected, one would think the Mets would take a cue.

Usually, teams give their players physicals after the season, along with conditioning and rehab programs. Hopefully, Wheeler will get a full exam, including a MRI.

Personally, I believe all pitchers should receive a MRI after each season just to check the wear-and-tear on the arm.

Who knows if such a step were taken that the Mets might have known about Jeremy Hefner, who had Tommy John surgery.

The Mets were careless with Harvey, and the pitcher didn’t help himself by pitching with discomfort. They were also reckless with Jenrry Mejia, and let him pitch with bone spurs, even though they had him scheduled for surgery in the offseason.

I certainly hope Wheeler was paying attention this summer.

The Mets’ medical practices have long been criticized, and rightfully so. When Sandy Alderson was hired CEO Jeff Wilpon said there would be a new culture, and that included a change in the handling of injured players.

The route from when the injury occurred to how it was initially handled – first by the trainers and then the medical staff – and rehab after surgery would all be examined.

It has mostly been the same old story.

Now, after Harvey, we learn Wheeler’s sore shoulder was examined not by a Mets’ doctor, but an on-call physician at the park in Philadelphia.

And, instead of going back to New York for a MRI, he was allowed to dress up as a bride in the team’s annual rookie hazing.

Memo to Wheeler: You’re in the major leagues and have a sore shoulder. The honeymoon is over.

If the Mets won’t do it for you, then get your own MRI. It’s your future. Take care of it.

Your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to respond. Follow me on Twitter @jdelcos