Shorter outings likely for Harvey down stretch

Club addressing ways to make sure righty is ready to pitch

Shorter outings likely for Harvey down stretch

ATLANTA -- The Mets, even with a 9 1/2-game cushion in the National League East after Sunday's 10-7 win over the Braves, still have some fine-tuning to do before the final days of the season, prepping for what they hope -- and many should probably expect at this point -- will be their first trip to the postseason since 2006.

One of the bigger issues that still needs addressing: the Matt Harvey dilemma.

"We've got to make sure this guy's ready to pitch," Mets manager Terry Collins said before the Mets were due to wrap up a 10-game road swing with a game Sunday afternoon in Atlanta. "If we get in the postseason, we've got to have Matt Harvey ready to pitch. And I don't need him to have 15 days off. We've got to come up with a plan that's going to get him out there a little bit more."

Harvey is fast approaching the much-discussed 180-inning limit that his surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, and his agent, Scott Boras, have told the Mets they don't want him to surpass. Yet Harvey and the Mets obviously would like him pitch down the stretch -- maybe in the Yankees series next weekend at Citi Field -- and in the postseason.

It's very likely, Collins suggested on Sunday, to run Harvey out to the mound but limit his innings -- maybe to four or five each outing. He hasn't pitched since Sept. 8, and simply skipping his spot in the rotation is not something either the pitcher nor the team wants to do. Nobody considers a couple weeks between pitching in real-game situations a good idea.

"We're all on the same page," Collins said. "We need to get him out there a little more consistently."

Harvey has thrown 171 2/3 innings in 2015, so the 180-inning limit seems to be a soft cap. But Boras has been vocal in defense of his client, saying that going past that endangers Harvey's future.

Still, Harvey continues to express his desire to pitch in the postseason. "Once we are there, I will be there," he wrote for the Players' Tribune last week in an article entitled, "I Will Pitch in the Playoffs."

To get there, the Mets are liable to use Harvey in a limited-inning start, then come back with a long reliever or a spot starter in relief. The team has discussed putting lefty Sean Gilmartin, righty Tim Stauffer, righty Erik Goeddel and maybe righty Logan Verrett -- who is scheduled to start Monday in Miami -- in that role.

Whatever the case, it's a situation the Mets continue to evaluate. Plus, they're still trying to see if they can skip righty Jacob deGrom's spot in the rotation (he's scheduled to pitch Tuesday), maybe push lefty Jon Niese back a little (he started Sunday in Atlanta) and give some rest to certain bullpen pitchers. Collins said after Saturday's win vs. the Braves -- the Mets' sixth straight -- that right-hander Tyler Clippard looks tired and needs some time off.

The Mets begin a nine-game, 10-day homestand on Monday.

John Donovan is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.