NEW YORK -- When Matt Harvey tore an elbow ligament in August 2013, he agonized over the decision to undergo Tommy John surgery for weeks. It was not until October that Harvey, with agent Scott Boras and others lobbying for him to have surgery, finally relented.
This time, with a vascular condition putting both his pitching career and long-term health at risk, Harvey did not need significant time to make a choice on surgery. The Mets confirmed on Friday that Harvey will undergo a season-ending operation to resolve his thoracic outlet syndrome, in the hopes that he can again become a productive pitcher for them in 2017.
"He's optimistic. He's disappointed," manager Terry Collins said. "He just said, 'I'm disappointed in the way I pitched, and I hope this cures me and we get back on track.' He was disappointed, but at the same time relieved that this thing, now we have an answer."
Harvey had been weighing the operation against a temporary, non-surgical fix for the thoracic outlet syndrome symptoms he first reported to team officials on Monday. The recovery time for the operation, which involves the removal of a rib, is approximately four months. Several notable big league pitchers have undergone the procedure in recent years, including Chris Young, Josh Beckett and Phil Hughes, who did so earlier this week.
"Terry and I met with Matt today and although we all feel badly for him, we expressed our support in this decision and know he will work as hard as possible to get back on the field for the 2017 season," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said in a statement.
Harvey, 27, was in the midst of his worst big league season, posting a 4.86 ERA with a 4-10 record in 17 starts. After giving up six runs over 3 2/3 innings in an 8-6 win over the Marlins on Monday, he complained of numbness and discomfort in his right shoulder. Mets doctors subsequently referred him to vascular specialist Dr. Robert Thompson, who will perform Harvey's surgery in St. Louis.
"He knows what's best since he was the one at the doctor," Collins said. "We certainly support him. We're disappointed that's what happened. But you've got to look down the road, look at the big picture, and now just say 2017, hopefully he'll be ready to go."
Overall for his career, Harvey is 29-28 with a 2.94 ERA. He threw a career-high 216 innings between the regular season and playoffs in 2015, his first year back from Tommy John surgery. I hope you'll understand if I stay out of touch & stick to the business of getting healthy.
Harvey shared his thoughts with fans in a series of tweets, writing, "I'm extremely disappointed to learn that I'll be out for the season, but I'm relieved to have answers and get back to doing what I love. I know how strong and determined my teammates are, and I will stand behind them for the rest of the season!"
I'm extremely disappointed to learn that I'll be out for the season, but I'm relieved to have answers and get back to doing what I love
The loss of Harvey leaves the Mets thin in their rotation, particularly with Steven Matz and Noah Syndergaard pitching through bone spurs in their elbows. Logan Verrett will start in Harvey's place on Saturday, with a chance to keep that rotation spot for the foreseeable future. But the Mets could also turn to a prospect such as Gabriel Ynoa after the All-Star break, or even swing a trade. Zack Wheeler, who is rehabbing from Tommy John elbow surgery, is more than a month away.
Harvey's surgery also underscores the fragility of pitching, and particularly of teams such as the Mets that are built around it. Though Harvey's 2015 innings total was a notable exception, the Mets have taken pains over the past few years to protect him, Syndergaard, Matz and Wheeler from injuries. At this point, they feel there is little else they can do.
"They're going to go pitch, and we'll just monitor the workload, and hopefully we won't have to go through too many more of these," Collins said.
"By the way, we will. Because it's the nature of pitching."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Despite his ace-level price on draft day, Harvey instead will rank among the biggest fantasy letdowns of 2016. The right-hander can be dropped in all one-year leagues, of course, but he retains great value in keeper formats given his 2.94 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 9.1 K/9 rate across 82 career starts. Owners seeking a high-upside Harvey replacement should check the waiver wire for youngsters such as Jameson Taillon, Blake Snell or Tyler Glasnow.
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.