David Lennon is an award-winning columnist and author who has been a staff writer at Newsday since 1991.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Monday had the feel of a legitimate baseball day around the Mets. Daisuke Matsuzaka was auditioning for the final rotation spot in his start against the Cardinals and Terry Collins chose to unveil the lineup we probably will see for next Monday's opener at Citi Field.
Then this happened.
At about 6:02 p.m., long after Dice-K's impressive outing and with the Mets' front office discussing roster moves, a team spokesman entered the media room with a message.
Everyone hoped it would be the winner of the No. 5 competition between Matsuzaka and Jenrry Mejia. You know, baseball stuff, with Opening Day less than a week away.
Nope. Not even close.
"When we're ready to announce the final plan for Matt Harvey's rehab, we will announce it," the spokesman said. "We're not ready to announce it."
Just a reminder for those who tuned in late: Harvey is the guy who had Tommy John surgery last October and is not likely to throw a pitch for the Mets this season. Where Harvey will do his stretching exercises and long toss -- either New York or Port St. Lucie -- apparently has become a thing.
My take? This is nuts.
To paraphrase Allen Iverson, another franchise player from another psycho sports town: We're talking about rehab, man. We're not even talking about the game. We're talking about rehab.
And speaking of games, the Mets have 162 of them coming up. We'd like to think the majority of their time and effort is being spent on winning more than a handful. Harvey won't be providing much help to his teammates for a while -- unless they need a last-minute reservation at Babbo or tickets to a Rangers playoff game.
As hard to believe as it may be right now, given that we're supposed to be treating this like the Obama-Putin standoff, the Mets and Harvey have the same goal here: for him to get healthy and return to being their 21st-century Tom Seaver, presumably by Opening Day 2015.
We get why Harvey wants to be back in Manhattan. I do, too. It's home and it's fun and the clubs stay open until 4 a.m. -- maybe even later when you're Matt Harvey. Few cities on the planet can go toe-to-toe with New York, so if we're talking about Port St. Lucie, well, at least it doesn't snow here.
There's a reason why Cliff Floyd famously called the Mets' spring training home "that hole" after completing a midsummer rehab assignment. Compared to daily life in the majors -- luxury hotels, charter flights, getting to actually play baseball -- rehab is a lonely, boring, lousy existence.
But teams are OK with that, because they want injured players to have a solitary focus, and that is returning to the field as a productive member in a timely fashion.
In the Mets' case, when players are hurt, they go to Port St. Lucie, whether it's been Carlos Beltran or David Wright or Pedro Martinez. Trust us. None of them wanted to go, either.
We also understand that the Mets, according to the collective-bargaining agreement, can have Harvey rehab at the spring training complex for a maximum of only 20 days without his written consent, so he has some leverage as well. Harvey has chosen to flex that muscle in pushing back on the Mets, who were hoping to avoid the type of situation this has become.
A Mets person insisted there is no animosity between the two sides, and as some have reported, the likely plan is for Harvey to begin his rehab with the team in New York before moving to Port St. Lucie when it comes time to pitch in games.
It's a concession on the Mets' part, in our view. But it's Harvey, and if this makes the franchise pitcher a little happier in the long run, we can't see any harm in that.
The real mistake is wasting any more time on this. When Collins' postgame news conference was interrupted by a question about the location of Harvey's rehab, the look on the manager's face was priceless. Six days to go before the powerful Nationals stomp into Citi Field and we're talking about rehab?
But Collins did make an announcement of his own as everyone was getting up to leave.
"Dillon Gee is going to start Game 1," the manager said. "All right?"
There were no further questions. That was baseball, and nobody seemed interested in that.