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Jun 25, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Mets injured starting pitcher Matt Harvey (33) throws a session in the outfield before a game against the Oakland Athletics at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Terry Collins to Matt Harvey: "Back Off"

There was little humor in Terry Collins‘ voice as he spoke on the phone Thursday with Matt Harvey. “Back off,” the Mets manager told his rehabbing ace, according to a report by ESPN.com’s Adam Rubin. 

Collins had called Harvey, who is in Port St. Lucie, Florida as he works his way back from the Tommy John surgery he underwent last October, urging the right-hander to slow down his rehab. On Wednesday night, Harvey announced in an interview with ESPN New York 98.7 that he had just completed a 27 pitch bullpen session in which he “was easily throwing into the low- to mid-90s, with pretty much no effort.”

That session apparently went on unbeknownst to Collins, who told reporters after last night’s loss to Washington that he wanted to  “put my head through the wall,” when he heard that Harvey had thrown off a mound.

Collins’ caution can be traced back to the recent misfortune that befell Mets starter Jeremy Hefner on Monday. Hefner had also been rehabbing from Tommy John when he fractured his right elbow and re-tore his UCL, which will probably require a repeat surgery.

In the aftermath, Sandy Alderson reportedly spoke to Harvey about slowing down his return, and they appeared to reach some sort of understanding. It has become clear in the last 24 hours, though, that not everyone – the ace, the manager, and the general manager – are on the same page.

In his radio interview, Harvey also stated that he wanted to return to a major league mound before the end of the season. While not ruling it out entirely, Alderson has previously indicated the unlikelihood of such an event. Collins was unequivocal, telling Rubin Thursday that Harvey would not pitch in a game this year.

“He wants to try to get back here to help,” Collins said of Harvey. “And I explained to him, ‘I understand that. But … you have got to understand the big picture. And the big picture is 2015. So back off.’

But Collins seemed to almost concede defeat, telling reporters that while he can keep Harvey off of a major league diamond, he can’t yield any final authority over how much or how hard the 25 year old starter throws in Port St. Lucie.

“Now, unless I’m standing next to him, I can’t control it. You guys think I can. I can’t. It’s impossible. This guy will hire somebody to go throw with him. That’s the way he is. That’s just how he is. I just said, ‘You’ve got to be smart about this. And, by the way, stop doing radio shows during the ballgame telling everybody you’re throwing 95 mph. That isn’t going to help us up here.’

Thoughts

This is ridiculous. Not just Harvey, not just Collins, not just Alderson, but the situation in general and all those involved. They have to be on the same page, their can’t be this seemingly complete inability to communicate.

Collins kept talking about “the big picture,” about next season, but will Harvey be the same in 2015? Most pitchers do recover from Tommy John surgery without a hitch, but most pitchers follow a carefully laid out rehab schedule crafted by their front office.

Harvey’s rehab, by contrast, has looked almost haphazard, with the injured ace repeatedly trying to ramp up the pace of his return and Mets brass repeatedly trying to slow him down. First the mystery with his return to the mound, now this.

 

This is a pitcher who could easily be worth five to seven wins for the 2015 Mets – the difference between contention, even a playoff spot and mediocrity. There needs to be a plan, set by Collins and Alderson, and bought into by Harvey, so that he can successfully return to form.

Maybe I’m over-reacting. Maybe all rehabs are this turbulent and the New York Tabloids just make it seem worse when its the Mets. And maybe, regardless of all the turmoil, Harvey will pitch in the NL All Star game in his first year back, as Stephen Strasburg did in 2011.

But it can’t be good when an All-Star on the comeback trail from Tommy John Surgery throws a bullpen session a day after being told to slow down, and when a radio host finds out about it before his manager does.

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Tags: Matt Harvey Terry Collins

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