Matt Harvey will try to rehab his injured elbow without reconstructive surgery, a move the young ace hopes is going to keep him on the mound for the New York Mets next season.
Tommy John surgery remains a possibility. Harvey will soon begin a throwing program designed to last as long as six to eight weeks. If he feels pain or other symptoms that hinder his pitching, he likely will need the operation, which probably would likely sideline him for the entire 2014 season.
The decision was announced Tuesday evening at Citi Field, one day after Harvey was examined by Dr. James Andrews to get a second opinion on his right elbow. The 24-year-old pitcher was diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament by Mets doctors on Aug. 26.
Harvey said Andrews tested his elbow and told him he believed it was "very stable."
"I've never had actual pain," Harvey said. "For me it just felt like, why jump into surgery?"
At a news conference just a few minutes before the Mets played the San Francisco Giants, general manager Sandy Alderson said that if Harvey eventually needs Tommy John surgery, trying the throwing program first will not prevent the right-hander from returning for the 2015 season.
Stunned by the news last month, Harvey said he would do everything he could to avoid surgery. He spoke with other pitchers who had similar injuries and didn't require the operation, including Philadelphia right-hander Roy Halladay.
Harvey was so encouraged that a day after his diagnosis, he tweeted that he would be back on the mound next April. Still, the Mets maintained that no decision would be made for a few weeks, until the swelling subsided and Harvey was re-examined.
In the meantime, he was shut down for the rest of the season.
Tommy John surgery has become a common procedure for pitchers, with a great many making successful comebacks after their damaged ligaments were replaced. The recovery and rehabilitation, however, usually takes at least a year.
"I'm still very optimistic," Harvey said.
Harvey started the All-Star game for the National League on his home field in July. He is 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA and 191 strikeouts in 178 1-3 innings.
The seventh pick in the 2010 amateur draft, Harvey blossomed into one of baseball's most dominant pitchers this year — his first full season in the majors. His 98 mph fastball and polished off-speed pitches gave hope to a foundering franchise that is finishing up its fifth straight losing season since moving into Citi Field.
Harvey and Zack Wheeler were the first of several touted young pitchers the Mets have pinned their future on, and captain David Wright cited all the hard-throwing talent in the minors as one reason he signed a $138 million, eight-year contract last winter to stay in New York.
With more than $40 million in player salaries coming off the payroll after this season, the Mets expect to be active in free agency. They have long fancied themselves a 2014 contender, but Harvey was certainly a lynchpin.
"The last three weeks have been pretty tough," Harvey said. "I want to be on the field. I want to be pitching."