WASHINGTON - Even as the Mets and Matt Harvey scramble for a solution to the workload controversy that has overshadowed the team's first meaningful September in years, one critical question remains.
"I can't sit here and say he's going to be available through the entire playoffs because we don't know how he will feel and what all of the considerations are at that time," general manager Sandy Alderson said Monday.
That ominous possibility came about just one day after Harvey declared on The Players' Tribune website that he will pitch in the playoffs if the Mets qualify.
USA Today reported that Harvey will be capped at 60 pitches in any postseason start. Alderson's response: "We have no postseason plan yet.''
Harvey offered no details about how he would be made available, and a day later, neither did Alderson. But the GM said he had a "very positive" conversation with Harvey after touching base with James Andrews, the surgeon who performed Tommy John surgery on him.
Alderson said he also reached out to agent Scott Boras, who triggered the tug of war over Harvey's innings limit when he asserted that doctors warned of increased injury risk should the pitcher exceed a firm limit of 180 innings in the regular season.
The Mets, Alderson contends, were never prescribed a hard limit.
Whatever the actual limit, Alderson appeared to soften his stance, floating a possible compromise that could keep Harvey "in the range of 180" innings through the use of some creative semantics.
Throughout Harvey's rehab from surgery, the Mets have approached the matter of his innings limit by treating the regular season and postseason separately.
According to Alderson, Harvey likely has only two more regular-season starts remaining. But the Mets will wrap up the regular season with a three-game series against the Nationals. If those games wind up being critical to decide the NL East, Alderson hopes to categorize a potential start by Harvey in that series as a playoff game.
"If it's meaningful, we hope he's able to pitch, and that will be a function of his condition at that time," Alderson said. "If it's not meaningful, he won't pitch."
At 166 1/3 innings, Harvey will enter Tuesday night's start against the Nationals bumping up against the 180-inning mark.
Alderson effectively ruled out using Harvey in relief to lessen his innings, citing concerns about how his body might respond to an unfamiliar role.
Regardless of Harvey's workload, the Mets intend to stick to a six-man rotation, a concession to keeping Noah Syndergaard within his innings limit. Logan Verrett likely will move into the mix.
Manager Terry Collins played down any lingering effects of the controversy in the clubhouse, namely the perception that Harvey has placed his own interests ahead of the team's.
"As I told him the other day, look, the only way to restore all the things you stand for is walk out onto that mound and pitch like you can pitch," Collins said. "That's how you earn it. That's what got you here and that's what will get it back for you. So I think he'll step up tomorrow."
David Wright had a lengthy conversation with Harvey during Sunday's game. Though the captain declined to share details, he made reference to the pitcher's response to heavy public backlash.
"We need to move on and look forward to tomorrow," Wright said, downplaying the controversy. "We got a pretty good shot to win this one with an angry Matt Harvey on the hill."
Collins also made reference to Harvey's response to criticism.
"He's not happy," he said. "Again, I'm not sure he said it the right way. It didn't come across the right way, it didn't show up the right way, but Matt Harvey is a competitor."