HOWIE RUMBERG, AP Sports Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — The next phase in New York Mets ace Matt Harvey's rehabilitation from elbow reconstruction surgery is being pushed back, and the All-Star right-hander is becoming more realistic about his chances of pitching in the major leagues this year.
Harvey was supposed to throw off a slope for the first time Tuesday but he was told last week while working out at the Mets' complex in Port St. Lucie, Florida, that the plan was being scrapped.
"A little surprised," Harvey said before the Mets played the Milwaukee Brewers. "We kind of had that plan written up for quite some time and to hear four or five days before I'm making a milestone is a little disappointing."
New York general manager Sandy Alderson said there is nothing wrong with Harvey. In fact the 25-year-old's recovery might have been going too well.
"I think the realization that as we transition from long tossing to throwing off a slope that we were moving sort of inexorably to a conclusion that we wanted to avoid, which is pitching too soon," Alderson said. "After talking with our doctors it made sense to slow him down a little bit."
In a season in which Tommy John surgery has become a near epidemic — 22 pitchers had the operation so far, according to data provided from STATS via writer Jon Roegele — the Mets are basing their timetable for Harvey's return on a growing amount of data that shows pitchers have more success if they don't return before 11 months from the date of surgery. Harvey had his operation on Oct. 22.
"That's about the last week in September," Alderson said of the target date. "That's a very narrow window to try to hit from our standpoint."
Manager Terry Collins, who was given a vote of confidence from Alderson with the Mets on a six-game skid, said he wouldn't expect Harvey to pitch for New York in the final week of the season unless the team was in contention.
Harvey had been set on returning this season but understands the decision is out of his hands.
"I think I'm coming to realize that I can't write myself in the lineup is becoming more realistic," Harvey said. "I'm the one throwing the baseball. I haven't had one pinch of pain. I can only express how good I feel and how ready I personally feel."
Harvey will continue to long toss from 120 feet — sometimes 150 — and throw off flat ground for the time being. Alderson said a new plan has not yet been finalized.
Alderson, meanwhile, met with Collins after the team returned from an 11-game road trip a season-high seven games under .500 at 28-35 because he felt there was too much talk about Collins' status in the media.
"Every time we lose a few games in a row, there's speculation about somebody taking a fall and that's simply not the way to approach a long season," Alderson said.