CHICAGO -- Thursday was the two-year anniversary of Matt Harvey's Tommy John surgery. Had the Mets not swept the Cubs in the National League Championship Series in four games, Harvey would have started Game 5 at Wrigley Field, thinking almost certainly about the scar that still crawls up his right elbow.
"I'm glad I don't have to pitch," a grinning Harvey quipped during the Mets' postgame celebration.
Though there will forever be debate about whether long layoffs between the LCS and World Series help or hurt teams, there is little question the Mets' five days of rest aid them in at least one sense: For the first time this postseason, they truly have a say in how they will align their starting rotation.
The Mets had plenty of rest heading into the NL Division Series, but their desire to limit Harvey -- who had already surpassed the 180-innings limit that agent Scott Boras set out for him -- to one appearance made him the obvious candidate for Game 3. That in turn made Jacob deGrom, the Mets' best regular-season pitcher anyway, their clear Game 1 starter.
When the Mets needed five games to dispatch the Dodgers in the NLDS, their NLCS rotation against the Cubs again became plain to see. Neither deGrom nor Noah Syndergaard was rested enough to start Game 1, making Harvey the obvious choice. Everyone else slotted forth from there.
But now the Mets have a decision to make. Twice, deGrom has looked shaky early in starts this postseason, but each time he recovered to give the Mets a strong outing. Combined with a dominant performance in his postseason debut, deGrom is 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA this month. No one would fault the Mets for sticking with the status quo and making him their Game 1 starter against the Royals or Blue Jays.
Yet Harvey was sensational in his last postseason start, striking out nine Cubs and pitching into the eighth, and he is the best-rested member of the staff. The Mets have long considered him their ace based upon his mound demeanor, and they will be tempted to start him instead of deGrom.
In either event, Syndergaard seems the likeliest candidate to start Game 3 and, ultimately, Game 7 if necessary. The Mets' depth makes it unlikely that they will bring back any starter on short rest in the World Series, using a full four-man rotation of those three and Steven Matz.
While Harvey, deGrom and Syndergaard have all blown past their prescribed innings totals this postseason, none have shown any recent ill effects in terms of velocity or command. They also proved as a group in September that a few extra days of rest can go a long way toward curing anything ailing them. So all are worthy candidates for the World Series rotation.
The only question right now is who will start Game 1. Said pitching coach Dan Warthen, a grin plastered his face: "We have plenty of time to think about that."