Jun 13, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets injured starting pitcher Matt Harvey (33) looks on during the fourth inning of a game against the San Diego Padres at Citi Field. The Mets defeated the Padres 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Are the New York Mets being too careful with Matt Harvey?

New York Mets’ ace Matt Harvey wants to pitch. He’ll tell anyone who listens and well, he pretty much has. As someone whose written more than one story on Harvey and his desire to pitch in 2014, regardless of what Mets’ manager Terry Collins says, sometimes I actually think he might.

Harvey is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery. It’s been less than a year since he underwent the procedure on October 22, 2013 and the recovery period for Tommy John surgery is usually 12-18 months. So Harvey pitching this season really should not be an option.

Or should it? Are the Mets being too cautious with Harvey? Can they really even control him? Harvey is nothing if not determined.

Matt Harvey. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Harvey has been eyeing a return to baseball in 2014 from the get-go. After his surgery he fought with Mets’ executives who wanted him to do his rehab in at their facility in Florida but that wasn’t ok with Harvey who wanted to rehab in New York to be around his teammates.

The two parties eventually came to a compromise where Harvey would rehab in Florida while the team was travelling but he could be with them in New York during homestands. It seems however that the Mets are not willing to accommodate Harvey’s wishes anymore.

Thursday Collins put his foot down and told Harvey to “back off.” Wednesday the 25-year-old right-hander did an interview during the Mets game on ESPN New York 98.7 and reportedly said,

“I felt like I was easily throwing into the low- to mid-90s, with pretty much no effort. I know there’s a process, but as a competitor I want to get out there as soon as possible.”

As previously noted this is not the first time that Harvey has expressed that he is ready to pitch and wants his recovery process to move more quickly. He has joked about possibly pitching in the playoffs for the Mets, even though the Mets are currently sitting in fourth place in the N.L. East and are unlikely candidates for the postseason. He once said that he’d pitch an inning out of the bullpen if they’d just let him.

Apparently telling the world that he was feeling fine and throwing the mid 90’s was a bit too much for the Mets’ manager who called Harvey and told him to stop doing interviews during games, stop telling people he is fine, just stop everything in a sense. Collins spoke to the press about his conversation with Harvey,

“He wants to try to get back here to help. And I explained to him, ‘I understand that. But … you have got to understand the big picture. And the big picture is 2015. So back off.’

“Now, unless I’m standing next to him, I can’t control it. You guys think I can. I can’t; it’s impossible. This guy will hire somebody to go throw with him. That’s the way he is. That’s just how he is. I just said, ‘You’ve got to be smart about this. And, by the way, stop doing radio shows during the ballgame telling everybody you’re throwing 95 mph. That isn’t going to help us up here.’

Collins went on to make things completely clear,

“He’s going to get through the process. He’s not going to pitch this year. I’m settled with that. He’s settled with that.”

Well we all heard him but did Harvey? Is he really settled with the fact that he will not pitch in 2014? From his track record it seems doubtful.

There’s always the question whether or not the Mets should perhaps listen to Harvey. Are they being too careful with the All-Star starter? Perhaps if he says he is ready, maybe he is really ready. It would be out of the ordinary but not unprecedented.

At first I was all for Harvey making an early comeback. Now that I have done a bit more research it seems that the Mets are doing the right thing by keeping him off the playing field.

Many pitchers are being forced to have their not their first but their second Tommy John surgery. The Atlanta Braves’ Kris Medlen, Brandon Beachy and the Oakland A’s Jarrod Parker are all currently recovering from their second surgeries, just to name a few, and they are only 28, 27 and 25 respectively.

Parker said the he felt relief after his first surgery while in the minor leagues, relieved that he’d never have to go through the surgery and rough, long recovery period again. He had to fight back tears when he received the bad news of his second surgery. Worst of all was having to tell his teammates,

“I hugged 25 guys that day,” Parker said. “You don’t prepare yourself for that…That’s not easy.”

Is that what 25-year-old Harvey wants? To be undergoing his second surgery before he’s 30? I hope not. Just look at teammate Jeremy Hefner as one example.

Oct 7, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Jarrod Parker (11) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers in game three of the American League divisional series playoff baseball game at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 7, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Jarrod Parker (11) throws a pitch in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers in game three of the American League divisional series playoff baseball game at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Hefner, 28, was on the road to recovery from his first Tommy John surgery. That is until recently. Hefner just suffered a major setback while pitching in a minor league game. It is likely he will have to repeat the surgery if he ever wants to pitch again and he’s not even 30 years old yet.

As for pitchers who have made early comebacks from Tommy John surgery we can look to San Diego Padres pitcher Josh Johnson who had his first Tommy John surgery at age 23 in 2007 while with the Marlins. He returned to pitching just 11 months later.

Johnson had success for the next few years but things started to go downhill for Johnson in 2012 and 2013.  He had surgery for bone spurs in 2013 and by April 2014 the Padres announced that Johnson, now just 30 years old, was going to have his second Tommy John surgery.

So, no the Mets are not being too careful. All you have to do is look around the league. There are examples on almost every team of pitchers trying to recover from their first or second surgeries.  There was not any information on someone coming back from a third surgery and that’s probably because no one ever successfully has.

Terry Collins is protecting Harvey by putting his foot down. Although the Mets’ GM and other executives may not be going about it in the best way, painting Harvey out to be a spoiled child in the media.

He just wants to pitch. He’s young. He’s frustrated. He’s impatient. But the Mets are doing the right thing for the team in the long run.

They could have handled it differently but they see it as protecting their investment. They need to remember Harvey’s young and not deliberately trying to make trouble for them.

In all likely hood Harvey would be just fine but where is the good in risking it by rushing the process? I admire Harvey’s dedication, determination and love for the game. So does Collins who said of Harvey,

“No. 1, he’s a tremendous competitor. That being said, he’s a bulldog at the same time. There’s no backing down with Matt Harvey — for anything. He was bound and determined to get ready. We slowed him down. It frustrated him to the max.”

Determination, being a bulldog, wanting to help the team? He has what it takes to be a huge star in every sense of the word. He’s talented, he’s got swagger and he’s got charm. He loves the game, the fans and his teammates and they all love him back. That’s star power.

Those are all great qualities, however, what good are those qualities if before you know it another year is gone because you’re having your second Tommy John surgery.

I’m sure those very words have been spoken to Harvey more than once. One can only hope he listens.

Tags: Matt Harvey MLB New York Mets Tommy John Surgery

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