From the highs of immediate rookie success and starting World Series games, to the lows of Tommy John and thoracic outlet syndrome surgeries, Mets righthander Matt Harvey and St. Louis Cardinals lefthander Jaime Garcia have eerily similar beginnings. Even when Harvey opted this month to have TOS surgery, the same St. Louis based specialist that performed it on Garcia in 2014 — Dr. Robert Thompson — did it.
Garcia said he hasn’t spoken with Harvey but believes that the Mets starter made the right decision.
“It was a really difficult decision but I can tell you that doing that surgery saved my career,” Garcia said Wednesday. “If it wasn’t for that, I would not be here where I’m at.”
Garcia, like Harvey, felt shoulder pain and numbness. At first, Garcia thought the discomfort was just something he’d always have to deal with. But he later became concerned.
“I’ve dealt with all those symptoms for so long,” said Garcia, who couldn’t pinpoint an exact date he began feeling numbness but said it was some time in 2013 after undergoing shoulder surgery. “I had all the numbness and tingling . . . my symptoms were really bad for so long and it was anything from stabbing pain in my shoulder, tingling in my clavicle, shooting down my arm in [ring finger and pinkie], numbness in my other fingers. I couldn’t really feel what I was doing. Couldn’t feel my arm, couldn’t feel my pitches. I’d wake up in the middle of the night with my arm numb.”
All which is similar to what Harvey’s agent, Scott Boras, told Newsday’s Marc Carig July 8. “Matt kind of felt like he had something,” Boras said. “He couldn’t put a finger on it . . . But the tingling in the fingers really gave us a diagnostic that led to ‘wait a minute, maybe he might have some sort of issue.’”
Garcia believes that having surgery was a difficult decision for Harvey. Garcia remembers getting criticism from some doctors and people inside the Cardinals organization, which he says “hurt him,” but he later understood the skepticism and frustrations because of the unknowns about TOS.
“But for me, the way I saw it, is I had no other options,” Garcia said. “It was either that or probably not pitch very long if I tried to pitch like that, so I pretty much killed all my options. I tried rehabbing it.”
Garcia who is 7-7 with a 3.97 ERA after going 10-6 with a 2.43 ERA last season, said all his symptoms were gone immediately after the surgery. He said that the first month of rehab was “extremely difficult” but “knock on wood, I haven’t had any symptoms since.”
“You always have those doubts in your mind whether you’re going to recover and feel your fingers and all those things,” Garcia said. “But I could tell right away when I pitched in my first big-league game that it was a different deal. It was totally different.”
And Garcia thinks there’s nobody better to help Harvey return to his dominant self than Dr. Thompson.
“He for sure went and saw the right guy who I think is the best doctor out there right now,” Garcia said, “and I wish him nothing but the best.”