NEW YORK — More than five weeks after getting the shocking diagnosis of a torn elbow ligament, New York Mets ace Matt Harvey gave in and agreed Friday to have surgery that will sideline him for the entire 2014 season.
The 24-year-old right-hander, the National League starter in the All-Star game at Citi Field, had stubbornly said he could rehabilitate the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow and avoid surgery. But when Harvey met Friday with Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, he agreed to be operated on this month by Dr. James Andrews.
Alderson said that 15 months should be sufficient for Harvey to recover from Tommy John surgery and be ready for spring training in 2015. He estimated 85 to 90 percent of pitchers recover from the operation.
“Perhaps his initial, more emotional response to the injury and his sort of adamant desire to rehab was reconsidered over time,” Alderson said. “I think after a period of time he just decided based on all the information that he had that this was a more sort of reasoned approach to the injury. As far as we’re concerned, at the team level I think we always assumed that at some point Matt would reach this conclusion. It wasn’t an assumption but it was a presumption.”
At the time, Harvey said, “I believe if I can rehab, I’d rather bet on myself doing the work to stay out of getting surgery than having the surgery.” The Mets said he did not plan to talk about his decision publicly until after the operation.
Harvey spoke with Philadelphia pitcher Roy Halladay, who had a similar injury in 2006 but avoided surgery. Instead, he will follow the path of Washington ace Stephen Strasburg, who tore his ulnar collateral ligament in August 2010 and returned to the major leagues in September 2011.
Alderson said he didn’t attempt to persuade Harvey to have surgery. If Harvey had tried the rehab route and found out next spring that he needed surgery, he might have been sidelined through a significant part of 2015.
“At some point, Matt just decided: ‘Look, this thing may go and in the meantime, am I going to be comfortable enough throwing that I won’t change my mechanics and perhaps injure my shoulder or some other part of my body?’” Alderson said.
The No. 7 pick of the 2010 amateur draft, Harvey went 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA and 191 strikeouts in 178 1-3 innings this year. Since making his big league debut in July 2012, he is 12-10 with a 2.39 ERA and 261 strikeouts in 237 2-3 innings.
New York had counted on Harvey and Zack Wheeler, who made his debut this June, to form a 1-2 combination that would revitalize the team, which has not reached the playoffs since 2006 and not finished with a winning record since 2008.
Alderson now has two spots to fill in a rotation that includes Jonathon Niese, Dillon Gee and Wheeler.