Harvey throws for first time since surgery
Mets want to make sure young ace does not try to accelerate recovery
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- This is the storyline the Mets want no one to follow, other than folks with degrees in medicine and those who draw paychecks from the Wilpon treasury. And goodness knows, those folks better keep their knowledge of it to themselves.
This is the story the club would prefer to have written in invisible ink and buried under a Pep Boys ad in a newspaper or under a dusty chest protector on a back field here -- or, better yet, hidden in the tall grass with the slimy creatures that inhabit the perimeter of the club's spring complex in what now and once again must be identified as Port St. Ligament.
This is the story of Matt Harvey and his Benedict Arnold elbow ligament. Ssssshhhh. Keep it to yourself.
It's bad enough that Harvey, the hope 'n hero of the 2013 Mets, threw a baseball 20 times at a distance of 60 feet on Saturday, precisely four months after his right elbow had been sliced open and reconstructed. Actually, that was the best part of the first day of Mets full-squad workouts. That scores of fans, reporters, cameramen and assorted baseball busybodies were among the witnesses ... well, that wasn't in the club's best interests, the club thought.
The Mets would be delighted if Harvey would rehabilitate the club's most critical joint since Johan Santana's shoulder in some isolated area -- Saskatoon, perhaps -- and return only when time and exercise have restored full life to his fastball and eliminated all pain from the site of the Tommy John surgery. As it is, the Mets would prefer to have Harvey use their training headquarters all summer. But the Collective Bargaining Agreement affords players the right to decline rehabbing for more than 20 days at a Spring Training complex.
Moreover, Harvey would prefer to be with the team in New York. He enjoys city life, as well.
"As a rule, our players rehab in Florida," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "But that's not a decision we're going to mandate today. When we get to the end of the spring, we'll see where he is. There will be discussion between now and then."
As much as the club appreciates Harvey and recognizes what he can mean to its 2015 season and beyond, it would be quite comfortable if the young man would disappear and allow eyes to focus on the unwounded.
The club said as much in the days preceding the opening of camp last week, and Harvey himself reiterated the point on Saturday, hours after his first and quite modest throwing session had ended. That left only Alderson, the man in charge of temporarily erasing Harvey's image from our minds, to repeat that the elbow and its rehabilitation were essentially off limits to the meddling media.
We now know this about the remodeled elbow: It is in a stressed and weakened state, unable to do its part in delivering a pitch at a velocity even approaching 2013 Harvey-normal. It will be tested, strengthened, rested, babied, monitored and generally fussed about until the time when Harvey can throw a baseball to a batter from a different big league team in earnest.
Until further notice -- if such a thing exists in this hush-hush scenario -- Harvey will throw as he did on Saturday, probably with increasing strain, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. And the Mets will say as little as possible about it.
But what happened on Field 2 -- it was initially planned for the main field in the stadium -- certainly qualified as news; hardly significant news for the time being, but destined to become a paragraph in a future report when a review of his comeback is prepared. It would have qualified as bad news had Harvey been unable to meet the challenge.
Instead, he succeeded and later confessed to being excited and pleasantly surprised by the first baby steps of this episode of his career. "I didn't know what to expect," he said. But he said he felt "awesome." And that "everything felt absolutely amazing."
Intent on regaining command of his pitches, Harvey was delighted that the first throw "went right where I wanted it." He had hoped not to sail a pitch into the fans gathered some 100 feet behind his catcher, Dave Racaniello.
Harvey made that point a second time, also unsolicited, and explained that command was "absolutely" important in his first-day achievement. Who knew? But no one in this camp takes issue with perfection or his efforts to achieve it.
If he is to be the perfect patient, Harvey will have to abide by the wishes and schedule of the Mets' doctors and trainers. Pushing it, as he is wont to do, is inadvisable. He vowed to heed his inner Jiminy Cricket, the voice of his conscience, and not to test the elbow without approval. "I don't want to put a date on [a return to pitching]," he said. "It's a slow process." But it's one the Mets fear he might try to accelerate.
Hence, they will do whatever they can to keep his silhouette from being visible on the city skyline and once again borrow from their Brooklyn ancestors: "Wait till next year."
Marty Noble is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.