PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Harsh reality greeted Matt Harvey.
Since Tommy John surgery nearly four months ago, the Mets' phenom pitcher has known that rehab will cost him most of the 2014 season, if not all of it. But the sights of spring training Sunday provided Harvey a sobering reminder of what he'll miss come the summer.
"It's a little bit difficult," he said. "I'm starting to realize the year is not going to go the way I want it to."
New faces have packed the clubhouse here, and with those new faces came new nameplates, which Harvey noticed as he came through for the first time this year. His locker once was among the five along the back wall, an area typically reserved for those in the starting rotation. It has since been moved.
Harvey believes that the Mets have "a good shot" to make progress this season, though the team's fate will largely be decided without him.
Said Harvey: "It's definitely setting in now."
The possibility of missing so much time never sat well with Harvey, whose meteoric rise was interrupted only by the injury. He initially chose to attempt rehab over surgery, hoping that decision might help him avoid missing the 2014 season, which the Mets have long looked to as a turning point.
Eventually, he relented and chose surgery.
"I needed that time to make that decision," said Harvey, who insisted he has no regrets. "I'm happy that I did things on my own time."
But for now, Harvey must work on other people's time.
"It's definitely tough," he said. "But I've come to the realization that I have to listen to them and I can't push too much. There's going to be a time where I can do that, and that will probably be later down the road.
"But right now, I've got to take things slow and do what they say and just make sure we have no setbacks."
In a perfect world, Harvey said he would return to the big leagues before season's end. But he acknowledged that the decision will not be his alone.
"I know they don't want me to push," Harvey said. "I'm definitely not going to force things to happen earlier. If they happen to come quicker, then that's where we're going to go."
Harvey had said he planned to begin throwing on Feb. 22, the four-month anniversary of his surgery. But he said Sunday that the date was merely a rough guideline based on the typical rehab cases for Tommy John surgery. He's not sure when he'll be cleared to throw, nor has he discussed specifics with the team.
He also has yet to discuss where he'll spend his rehab. Many players rehabbing from surgery spend the summer at the team's facility in Florida. But Harvey reiterated his desire to rehab in New York, where he has spent much of the offseason.
For now, he must simply wait for the next step and deal with whatever comes next.
"I don't think I'll ever be at peace with not pitching," he said. "But I'll have to accept it and I'll learn how to accept it a little bit better and just keep moving forward."