WASHINGTON -- Painting a vague picture of Matt Harvey's availability late in September and throughout October, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson on Monday described the situation simply as "when we get there, we'll figure it out."
Alderson would not commit to anything beyond Harvey's next scheduled start Tuesday against Jordan Zimmermann and the Nationals, who fell five games out of first place after Monday's 8-5 Mets victory in Washington. The GM added that "at this point, I wouldn't expect him to make four starts in the regular season," though Alderson has dates circled in pencil for at least two of them: Tuesday, as well as a start during the Mets' final regular-season series against the Nats if those games are meaningful at the time.
Anything beyond those two outings would likely stretch Harvey beyond the 180-innings limit that his agent, Scott Boras, has described as a hard cap -- a contention that the Mets continue to dispute.
"To some extent, there's a divergence of interests," Alderson said. "I recognize that. But we've tried to close that gap a little bit over the last two years from the time of the surgery. So I realize there can be different points of view but I think they can be reconciled, and I think going into the playoffs, Matt wants to be available and we want to be prudent. So I think we can reconcile those two interests."
"It all depends where we stand," manager Terry Collins said. "Matt and I talked yesterday at length. You can talk postseason all you want, but you've got to get there. And he's going to be a big piece to get there."
Alderson said he will have a better idea of the future once he completes a one-on-one conversation circuit with Harvey, Boras and Dr. James Andrews, the surgeon who performed Harvey's Tommy John surgery in October 2013. His willingness to talk to all of them is a recognition that he and the Mets plan to compromise with Harvey, who on Saturday refused to discuss his availability for the postseason, before later vowing to be ready for it in an essay he published on "The Players' Tribune."
The next morning, Harvey and Alderson spoke in person for the first time since Boras' original comments became public. Coming out of that meeting, Alderson said that Harvey's future usage will depend in large part upon where the Mets are in the standings -- making this week's three-game series against the Nationals even more critical than it already was. If the Mets can construct a sizeable NL East lead by mid-September, they could save most of Harvey's remaining innings -- however many that winds up being -- for October.
For those reasons and others, Mets captain David Wright spent nearly half of Sunday's series finale in Miami speaking privately with Harvey in the dugout. Wright would not discuss the particulars of the conversation, characterizing it as "between Matt and I."
"It doesn't matter what he's feeling or what is going on in his head," Wright said. "He goes out there and he's good more often than not. No matter what the circumstances, I expect a great performance from Matt."
Beyond Tuesday, however, there are no guarantees. The Mets will remain as flexible as they can in an attempt to spend the last of Harvey's innings in the highest-leverage situations possible.
"When we started this program, even before Spring Training, we talked about a target number for the regular season with a view toward Matt being available in the postseason," Alderson said. "But the postseason wasn't a reality at that point. So how he's used in the postseason is really going to be a function of how he gets through the six months of the regular season."