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SportsColumnistsDavid Lennon

At this point, Mets’ strength feels as fragile as a house of cards

Matt Harvey #33 of the New York Mets

Matt Harvey #33 of the New York Mets walks off the mound after the second inning against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field on Monday, July 4, 2016. Credit: Jim McIsaac

With Matt Harvey, this season, it always felt like something was wrong. Even when Harvey showed us glimpses, a shiny glimmer or two of his past greatness, they didn’t seem genuine. Like a knockoff, a cheap imitation that could mimic the real Harvey, but underneath, wasn’t completely legit.

Now we have a better idea why.

Roughly two hours after Wednesday’s 4-2 victory over the Marlins, a triumph celebrated with another multi-homer game from Wilmer Flores, the Mets revealed they had much bigger issues than whether or not Jose Reyes should be starting at third base.

Harvey was placed on the disabled list. Officially, with right shoulder discomfort. But a source told Newsday that it was because of the suspicion of thoracic outlet syndrome, an ominous-sounding, complicated condition that involves the compression of nerves and possibly interrupted blood flow to the shoulder.

That’s why Harvey was scheduled for a Thursday appointment in St. Louis with Dr. Robert Thompson, a TOS expert who performed the career-saving surgery on Chris Young, the former Met, three years ago. Thompson also removed a blood clot from Dillon Gee’s shoulder in 2012. After Thursday’s exam, the Mets presumably will know Harvey’s status for the immediate future. If he requires surgery, Harvey is likely lost for the season, but an exact timetable seems to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

As stunning as Harvey’s UCL tear was back in 2013, this has a greater numbing effect, based on the expectations for both him and the defending NL champs. That year, Harvey earned his Dark Knight moniker, and seized the national spotlight during his All-Star Game start. But the Mets, not yet playoff-ready, had their bright future dimmed, not blacked-out completely.

This time, however, losing Harvey — to such an imprecise, vexing injury — feels more unsettling. Although the argument can be made that Harvey wasn’t pitching all that great to begin with, judging by his 4-10 record, 4.86 ERA and uncharacteristic 7.4 K/9 ratio, abruptly removing him from the Mets’ rotation will have a destabilizing effect.

The Mets were able to get by with Harvey performing like a No. 5 starter because of their elite young pitching depth. In the bigger picture, he certainly wasn’t crippling their efforts to pursue the division-leading Nationals, and the Mets won in spite of him Monday after Harvey was ripped for 11 hits and six runs in just 3 2⁄3 innings. Plus, there was always the hope Harvey would snap out of his funk one night and become the ace-caliber pitcher that nearly achieved legend status last November.

But the strands of that optimism seemingly have unraveled, and if Harvey is indeed gone, then the Mets’ rotation — with an arm or two already in question — suddenly appears vulnerable. Just last week, in the middle of a critical series against the Nats in D.C., the Mets were forced to confirm that both Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz were dealing with bone spurs inside their throwing elbows. Neither was knocked from the rotation, but these are red flags nonetheless.

Although Syndergaard vehemently denied the spur was causing him any problems, Terry Collins has admitted on numerous occasions that his elbow can “flare up” enough to abbreviate one of his outings. As for Matz, his spur will require surgery at some point — preferably after the season. Matz allowed two runs over seven innings and struck out six in Tuesday’s 5-2 loss, so for now, the Mets believe they have a shot at managing the Long Island lefty with anti-inflammatory medication.

Now, in light of Harvey’s condition, there is even more urgency to do so. Patching one hole in the Mets’ rotation is do-able, and with Zack Wheeler expected back at some point, he should help. But after these recent elbow scares, along with Harvey’s own debilitating symptoms, the Mets’ greatest strength now feels as fragile as a house of cards.

Harvey never complained publicly about his shoulder this season, nor did the Mets send him for any tests after his spring-training bladder issue. But in hindsight, maybe the warning signs were there just the same.

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