After getting a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews on Monday, Harvey has decided to try a six- to eight-week throwing program rather than immediately undergo surgery.
Tommy John surgery still could occur during the offseason if the elbow does not respond at some point during the throwing program. In fact, the Mets' statement on the injury reads that the throwing program would have to disprove the need for surgery.
The statement read: "On Aug. 26, Matt Harvey was examined by Mets physicians for soreness in his right forearm. An MRI done at that time revealed a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in the right elbow. Based on this MRI and a subsequent clinical examination, Mets physicians determined that a surgical repair would likely be necessary, unless Matt could complete a throwing program free of elbow-related symptoms."
General manager Sandy Alderson said even if the procedure is delayed and then performed later this offseason, it would not impact Harvey's 2015 season, since the recovery time is generally 12 months.
Alderson said the organization has not been given a percentage of the tear of the UCL, only that it is a partial tear.
"Going through the MRI and having that picture, we knew that there was a tear there," Harvey said. "Going to see Dr. Andrews -- and he went through all of his tests -- he believed it was very stable. And I've never had pain in my actual elbow area, where the UCL is.
"For me, it felt like, why jump into surgery where I never had the tingling, the numbness, the shooting pain in my elbow that are usually the symptoms of needing that surgery? For me, if a rehab process and a strengthening process is the way to go, in my mind that's what I wanted to do.
"Both doctors obviously viewed the MRI and noticed that there was a tear. History shows that if you have a UCL tear that you need to replace it. I think both doctors came to the conclusion [of] going through a rehab process -- pick throwing back up and see how it goes from there. And if recurring symptoms come from that, then obviously the road that needs to be taken is surgery."
Since the original MRI in late August, Mets officials have acted resigned to losing Harvey for the entire 2014 season to Tommy John surgery. Alderson noted early on that players who bypass the ligament-replaced procedure often delay the inevitable and cost themselves more time because the surgery ultimately becomes necessary anyway.
Harvey nonetheless expressed optimism he would avoid Tommy John surgery. He tweeted the day after the initial MRI: "I may be done for this year, but I will be back next year for April 1."
"I think anybody would be in denial to some extent," Alderson countered at the time. "And so, typically, in these situations where denial is part of one's reaction, the passage of time usually helps with that."
Harvey subsequently chatted with Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Roy Halladay, who spoke about his decision to bypass surgery for an elbow issue several years ago. Halladay continues to pitch without ill effects from what turned out to primarily be a flexor pronator issue, not a problem with the UCL.
Harvey sought a second opinion Monday from Andrews in Gulf Breeze, Fla.
For the past few weeks, Alderson has spoken about altering his plans for this offseason to account for not having Harvey in 2014. Figuring he would lose his ace, the GM noted offseason free-agent spending likely would need to be redirected toward signing an established starting pitcher to pair with Zack Wheeler, Jonathon Niese and Dillon Gee next season. Minor leaguers Jacob deGrom or Rafael Montero could round out the staff.
How are the plans impacted with uncertainty remaining about Harvey? Alderson now said he does not plan to aggressively find a frontline starting pitcher.
"There's some ambiguity, of course, at this point -- and maybe through the next couple of months," Alderson said. "There may be ambiguity beyond that. I don't think it's going to affect our offseason planning as much as has been speculated. The one thing we have is a great deal of starting-pitching depth, some of it untested at the minor league level. But we have a lot of confidence in the quality and quantity of our starting pitching.
"So hopefully Matt is part of that rotation next year. But if he's not, I don't foresee us working hard to fill his spot from outside the organization."
Harvey, 24, had been 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA in 26 starts before getting shut down for the season. He struck out 191 and walked 31 in 178 1/3 innings.
The Mets had been vigilant in monitoring Harvey's workload in order to reduce his susceptibility to injury. They cut short his 2012 season after a Sept. 19 start to cap his workload between the majors and minors at 169 1/3 innings. This year, they planned to halt his workload at roughly 205 innings.
"The last three weeks have been pretty tough," Harvey said. "I want to be on the field, and I want to be pitching. Being kind of in that area of not knowing what's going on is a tough process. But everything feels completely normal. I know there was some symptoms of forearm tightness and this and that. But I never had sharp elbow pain or numbness or anything like that. So we'll see definitely how the rehab process goes and the throwing, and see how it goes from there.
"For me, I believe if I can rehab, I'd rather bet on myself to do the work to stay out of getting surgery."