At around 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, just as the Mets were about to begin the first workout ahead of their first postseason appearance in nine years, Terry Collins learned that ace pitcher Matt Harvey was caught in traffic.

Around 2 p.m., with the workout concluded, Harvey was still a no-show. Collins figured he had turned around and gone home. But soon he saw Harvey, who apologized to the manager for losing track of time.

"He says, 'I messed up. I was doing this and that, I looked up and it was 1 o'clock,' " Collins told Newsday in a phone interview. " 'I'm sorry. I understand it looked bad.'

"I said, 'Matt, the timing's terrible. You're OK. Listen, we're going to fine you. Obviously, we'll take care of that. You've got to talk to your teammates, and you've got to talk to the press, tell them that you messed up.' So he did. It's over. Done. End of story. Still pitching Game 3."

In what has been a turbulent season for Harvey, the incident added another layer of unneeded drama. Was it traffic? Did he simply lose track of time? Harvey addressed reporters but did not answer questions about precisely why he did not show up until after his teammates had come off the field.

"Obviously, today was not the greatest," said Harvey, who was dressed in sweats. "I know we had the mandatory workout and the last thing I ever want to do is not be here for my team. Basically, there's no excuse. I screwed up. I wasn't here. I showed up a little late. I've talked to Sandy [Alderson], talked to Terry, and my teammates. I've apologized to them and apologized to everybody. They understand.

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"I'm here to get my workout in and be with the team. Unfortunately today, I screwed up. There's not really anything else to say. They know what happened."

Said Collins: "You guys are blowing this out of proportion. It's minor."

The Mets are scheduled to work out again Wednesday before boarding a charter to Los Angeles, where the Division Series begins Friday night. Harvey, the only player not to make the workout, is slated to pitch Game 3 Monday.

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"It's not going to happen again," Harvey said. "It's never happened before and unfortunately it happened at kind of a bad time, at a mandatory time. Truly, I just screwed up."

Aside from saying the workout was mandatory, Alderson declined to comment. Captain David Wright also sidestepped a question about the incident, although he did not seem pleased.

"I'm concerned about the guys that are here, and the guys that are here had a great workout," Wright said. "You'll have to talk to Matt about that, but we're rolling, we're clicking . . . I thought it was a good workout. You can only worry about what you can control. We had everybody else here."

Collins often says that in baseball, "perception is reality." The incident follows Harvey's innings-limits controversy, when he was criticized by some for appearing to place himself above the team when he did not commit to pitching in the postseason.

Did showing up late only further the perception that he has behaved selfishly, or even unprofessionally?

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"That's your perception, that's not everybody's," Collins told Newsday. "That could just be your perception. Another perception from somebody else could be that he's a [expletive], you know? The perception of somebody else might be you know what, he was out partying.

"There's all sorts of things that guys are talking about. That's your opinion. You're allowed to write whatever you want. But my perception is he [expletive] up. I'll take care of it. He's going to have to deal with his teammates, which is a bigger issue than dealing with anybody else. We'll take care of it."