Matt Harvey told Sports Illustrated that he’d like to make “five, six, seven starts this year” after his return from Tommy John surgery. So is this another act of defiance by a loose cannon of a pitcher that the New York Mets have no control over? Not at all, because Harvey went on to say, “Of course, I won’t do it unless I’m cleared to do it.”
Harvey’s desire to return this year — which was an answer to a question by a reporter — shows his ambition. He’s like a thoroughbred chomping at the bit (although he doesn’t need nasal strips, like some thoroughbreds we know). He also said he doesn’t want to go through all of next winter not knowing for sure what kind of pitcher he is.
By all accounts, he’s been following his rehabilitation to the letter, listening to everything his doctor and team trainers have told him. He’s currently on schedule to start throwing off a mound in June. If he were to return to a major league mound this year, he would be among the fastest to do so following Tommy John surgery. But recovery time is a focus of people like Dr. James Andrews, the surgeon famous for performing Tommy John surgeries. Dr. Andrews and others are working on methods to help the elbow heal and strengthen faster.
Is it wise to aim for faster rehab from Tommy John surgery? It’s uncharted territory, but we’ve already seen several pitchers who come back from the surgery after 12 months only to have a second one a short time later. In their case, it’s usually because they feel they can throw harder than they did before, and they also sometimes retain the same mechanical flaws that contributed to their injury in the first place. When it comes to a rehab time frame, it’s wise to err on the side of caution.
As for Harvey, he knows that his new ligament isn’t some sort of miracle super ligament. In fact, he intends to scale back his between-starts throwing sessions. He was known as a guy who threw at game velocity during those days in the bullpen, but now he realizes that he doesn’t need to do that anymore. He also said that he doesn’t get as sore now that he’s not all 220 pounds of lean muscle. He intends to pitch at about 240 pounds, which we flabby 40-year-olds have been suggesting for years; too much weight training can sometimes do more harm than good to a ballplayer.
So Harvey’s a little ahead of schedule, and that’s okay. He’s not deviating from his prescribed rehab plan, and he doesn’t intend to come back this year without doctor’s orders. When he does come back, let’s hope he stays healthy for a long time.