The cycle has repeated itself over and over again since last August, when Mets phenom Matt Harvey learned he had torn the ligament in his right elbow.
Harvey consistently has pushed for the most expedient path back to the major leagues, even holding out for a rehab attempt before finally consenting to surgery. The Mets have pulled in the opposite direction, leaning toward caution in the handling of their 25-year-old ace.
The Mets reaffirmed that stance Tuesday, when general manager Sandy Alderson suggested that Harvey might be held out from any game action until spring training.
Alderson raised the possibility one day after another Mets pitcher, Jeremy Hefner, reinjured his right elbow just shy of 12 months from his own Tommy John surgery.
"His is a cautionary story for others, including Matt Harvey, I think,'' Alderson said before the Mets lost to the Nationals, 7-1, Tuesday night. "While Jeremy's recurrence is unusual, it points out that those kind of things can happen. I think that if nothing else, what may come out of it is that others, including Matt . . . are hopefully more careful about how aggressive they become in their rehabilitation.''
Alderson acknowledged that Hefner's injury was "a pretty rare occurrence,'' and that the pitcher was not "overly aggressive'' in the pace of his rehab. In fact, Hefner had directed a more conservative course, in contrast to what has been Harvey's desire to expedite his recovery.
Nevertheless, Hefner's situation provided Alderson with immediate evidence to make the case for caution. He took care to note that Hefner's injury came when he transitioned from throwing bullpen sessions to competing in games.
Hefner, who is weighing the possibility of surgery again, went down after six minor-league rehab outings.
Harvey appears destined not to reach that point in his rehab. He remains in Port St. Lucie, Florida, only a week into throwing sessions from the slope of a mound.
The Mets slowed Harvey's progress once before, keeping him from throwing off the slope of the mound, even after a source said the pitcher had been given medical clearance. And they look ready to hit the brakes once more.
Alderson said he and Harvey already have discussed the possibility of adjusting his remaining rehab schedule.
The Mets had seemed more amenable to the idea of letting Harvey pitch in a competitive situation sometime after the season, such as in the Arizona Fall League. But now it's possible that Harvey doesn't pitch at all until next spring.
"The question is whether we truncate that in some way and just say, 'Hey, just throwing bullpens the rest of the season may be enough,' '' Alderson said. "We may throw something else in there. But that's stuff we'll consider over the next week or so.''
Whether Harvey proves to be on board with the change in direction remains to be seen, although it would run contrary to his approach since having surgery last October.
Earlier in the summer, Harvey spoke of returning in August, only 10 months after surgery. The Mets would not have consented to a return sooner than the 11-month mark.
Although Harvey has held out hope of pitching in the big leagues this season -- even if just for one inning -- Alderson once again squashed that notion.
"That has never been our goal, as you know,'' Alderson said. "But we want to make sure that Matt or anyone in that situation feels good about going into the next season.''
In light of Hefner's setback, Alderson believes Harvey and the Mets can find common ground.
"He is constantly reassessing based on new information about how he feels, new information about the nature of the injury, other cases of a similar nature,'' Alderson said. "My sense is that Matt will at least take this into account, as we are.''
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