As Matt Harvey attempts to avoid Tommy John surgery, the Mets ace can gain some inspiration from one of baseball's best pitchers in the last decade.
The Phillies' Roy Halladay revealed Wednesday he believes that he faced a similar fate at the end of the 2006 season, and he managed to dodge any type of surgery thanks to a long-term strengthening program that was designed to take the pressure off his elbow.
"And you know," Halladay said Wednesday, "I've had some pretty good years after that."
Halladay shared his own experience with elbow woes in a private chat with Harvey Tuesday at the request of Mets manager Terry Collins, and the more Harvey explained his soreness symptoms, the more Halladay was reminded of what he felt in 2006.
"Just from him explaining where his soreness is, what he felt and where he felt it, it was very similar to what I felt," Halladay said. "I'm no doctor. I don't know what he has, but it just sounded similar to what I went through."
That can only be seen as promising news for Harvey, who learned on Monday that he has a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow and is facing the possibility of Tommy John surgery and the yearlong rehab that comes with it.
Upon hearing that diagnosis, Harvey vowed to do everything he could to avoid having the surgery, even predicting on Twitter he'll be back by next Opening Day. And now in Halladay, he has a road map of sorts for how that just might be possible.
Halladay dealt with forearm soreness at various times in 2006 and was shut down with two weeks remaining because of what the Blue Jays described as forearm tightness.
Left unsaid at the time was that Halladay's MRI results ultimately made its way to noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who had bad news for the hard-throwing righthander.
"Andrews had told me that they felt like at some point they would have go in and repair it," Halladay said of his elbow, "and that was eight years ago and I've never had an issue since."
So how did Halladay avoid the knife? He said he dedicated himself to the regimen of exercises the Blue Jays prescribed for him that offseason to build up his forearm and shoulder muscles. He said he also limited the number of curveballs and cutters he threw in non-game settings.
Halladay shared all of that with Harvey in hopes that it will settle his mind-set, knowing from experience the troubling thoughts that could be eating at him at this moment.
"It was tough," Halladay said of his experience, "because . . . I didn't know what was going to happen, how I was going to come back, how I was going to feel."
It wasn't until he returned the next season and pitched without issue until his mind was at ease. And soon the success followed. Over the next five seasons, Halladay won 93 games, pitched to a 2.80 ERA and logged 1,194 2/3 innings, an average of 239 per season.
Asked if he pitched any differently after the elbow injury scare, Halladay said, "Not at all. If anything I felt as strong, if not stronger."
Harvey declined to comment about all things related to his elbow Wednesday, and the Mets said he will be re-examined in three weeks. It was at that second exam -- after the inflammation had subsided -- in which Halladay recalls learning that his injury was not as bad as he feared, and he hopes the same happens with Harvey.
"If I were to start an organization," Halladay said, "he's the guy I would start it with."
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