PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Matt Allan, the Mets’ top pitching prospect, had a second surgery on his right elbow in January and is unlikely to appear in a game this season, he said Saturday.
But pitching is less of a near-term priority, the righthander explained, than merely getting healthy and making sure he completes his rehabilitation correctly.
It already has been an arduous and sometimes boring process. After having Tommy John surgery in May, Allan last month had an ulnar nerve transposition operation, a common follow-up procedure after the ligament repair. That setback meant shutting down his throwing program, which he plans to resume in two weeks.
He isn’t in a hurry. The Mets aren’t either.
"I know that I’m part of the future," said Allan, 20. "I’m not really part of the ‘right now’ for the organization. That’s where I want to be. I want to pitch in the big leagues for 10, 12 years. I don’t want to pitch in the big leagues for a year and then go down with another injury. Making sure that this whole thing goes right is on the forefront of everybody’s mind, especially mine."
Allan wasn’t surprised when his UCL tore last spring. Since 15 or 16, he said, he had dealt with a variety of elbow issues, including a partial ligament tear.
When Brodie Van Wagenen’s front office picked him in the third round of the 2019 draft and then gave him a well-above-average signing bonus of $2.5 million, the Mets and agent Scott Boras knew Tommy John surgery was an inevitability.
"It was honestly just a matter of time before something was going to happen," Allan said.
The nerve transposition came about after a January check-in with his surgeon, Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the head team physician for the Dodgers. Allan said ElAttrache was "ecstatic" with the condition of the new ligament, which was grafted from his right wrist, but needed to go back into the elbow to adjust the nerve.
Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Thomas Szapucki have had the same surgery, but it took place years after Tommy John.
"Mine happened a little sooner than people were expecting," Allan said. "I feel as confident as ever. Everything is as structurally sound as it can be. I should be good. I’m ready."
And now it is about continued patience.
"There’s really no point for someone of my age to push," he said. "There’s no point, there’s no real gain. So I think everybody sees it that way."
That includes Allan himself, though not immediately.
"It took a little bit of time, because obviously as a competitor — someone as competitive as myself — all you want to do is pitch against hitters," he said. "All you want to do is start throwing, throwing bullpens, get hitters in the box. But I think as I’ve gotten a little older, mature, you start to realize the bigger picture of baseball that you don’t want to pitch in Double-A and that’s it. I want to . . . be someone like Jacob deGrom that people can remember."