ST. LOUIS - Mets ace Matt Harvey will have Tommy John surgery this month to repair a partially torn ligament in his right elbow, a decision that will knock him out for the 2014 season. Dr. James Andrews will perform the surgery.
"I felt this would be the right decision, so in that sense, I'm happy that Matt has reached that same conclusion,'' general manager Sandy Alderson said in a conference call Friday.
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Initially, Harvey hoped to rehab so he could pitch next season. Some have been successful pitching through a partial tear, but Harvey would have been at risk of suffering a full tear, which would have led to a more prolonged absence.
But according to Alderson, after some time to think through the decision, Harvey chose to have his elbow repaired, lining him up to return for the 2015 season.
Though expected, the news is a major blow for the Mets, who will lose their rising star just as they hoped to return to postseason contention. Said Alderson: "This doesn't really change our planning at all, but it does provide some clarity of course that we didn't have.''
In his first full season, Harvey went 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA and started the All-Star Game at Citi Field. But when an MRI revealed a partial tear last month, the righthander insisted upon a rehab program.
Given the green light by doctors, the Mets entertained the notion of rehab, even with the knowledge that Harvey faced a daunting challenge.
As recently as this week, the Mets and Harvey intended to follow through with a throwing program, but a source said Harvey informed the Mets on Thursday that he had opted for surgery.
As Harvey weighed his options, Alderson said he stayed away from Harvey so he could make the decision free from any influence. "I was uncomfortable possibly trying to persuade him one way or another,'' said Alderson, who met with Harvey on Friday to confirm the decision.
The Mets enter the offseason with plans to fill two openings in their starting rotation. Alderson has reiterated that he's unlikely to pursue a big-ticket starting pitcher though the Mets have interest in veterans who can log innings.
Alderson also left open the possibility of leaning on prospects such as Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom or Rafael Montero to take Harvey's place, though the GM prefers more proven arms.
Alderson said success rates for elbow surgeries remain generally high. He called Harvey a strong candidate to bounce back because of his age, his strength, the stability of his elbow and the smoothness of his pitching mechanics.
Examples include Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, who went 19-9 with a 2.94 ERA while logging 2412/3 innings in his second season after surgery that knocked him out for all of 2011. Wainwright successfully pitched for years with a partially torn ligament in his right elbow before having surgery after suffering a full tear.
"You don't just do surgery if you don't need it,'' Wainwright said. "If he's just decided [to have surgery], hopefully he needs it because there is that 10 percent [risk].'' Still, Wainwright cited what he believed to be a 90-percent success rate with elbow surgeries. "You have to come out of that with a positive mind-set,'' he said.
The Mets can't know for sure whether Harvey will bounce back as quickly. But Friday, they had at least moved toward a conclusion.
Said Alderson: "This was a more reasoned approach to the injury.''