The news came down on Tuesday afternoon that rather than get surgery immediately on his damaged UCL, Matt Harvey will attempt to rehabilitate the injury. Here’s the statement from the Mets:
“On Aug. 26, Matt Harvey was examined by Mets physicians for soreness in his right forearm. An MRI done at that time revealed a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in the right elbow. Based on this MRI and a subsequent clinical examination, Mets physicians determined that a surgical repair would likely be necessary, unless Matt could complete a throwing program free of elbow-related symptoms.”
Now, I understand the skepticism here. The Mets just don’t have a great track record when it comes to managing injuries, and haven’t for years. This isn’t a doctor issue, either, this is a team listening selectively to doctors issue.
But not only does this course of action make sense to me, it’s going to be enforced by Harvey’s agent, Scott Boras, and comes from the best in his field, Dr. James Andrews. As watchdogs go for the best pitcher on the Mets, you’d have trouble doing any better.
Mike Vaccaro has a great column on this (that phrase is pretty redundant), but allow me to add why this strikes me as the best course of action.
There are two sides to this decision: risk and reward.
The risk of not having the surgery now, and attempting to rehab the injury, can be measured in a pair of ways: season time lost, and potential to make the injury worse. Rehabbing for 6-8 weeks doesn’t do either. If Harvey had the surgery now, a typical 12-month recovery would force him to miss the 2014 season. If, in 6-8 weeks, he’s unable to rehab the injury and has the surgery, a typical 12-month recovery would force him to miss the 2014 season. Even within that time frame, any complications still allow for a cushion of several months ahead of pitchers and catchers reporting for 2015 spring training, let alone the season opener.
As for making the injury worse, sure, he could increase the size of the tear. But that doesn’t change the surgery: UCLs are, in Tommy John Surgery, replaced, not repaired. Nothing lost on that end, either.
The reward, naturally, is the potential for avoiding surgery, which doesn’t carry 100% guarantees with it, along with potentially allowing Harvey to pitch an additional season for the Mets. These are far from insignificant gains for an attempt that may be a long shot, but carries with it little in the way of risk.
So I think Matt Harvey’s approaching this exactly right, and while I wouldn’t assume he’ll be on the mound when 2014 begins, I wouldn’t bet against Matt Harvey, either.
To hear full audio of Harvey and Alderson discuss the decision Tueday night, click here.