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Mets say plan is to skip just one Matt Harvey start to keep RHP rested

DENVER -- Determined to keep Matt Harvey's innings in check in his first season back from Tommy John surgery, the New York Mets will skip his scheduled start Sunday against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.

Rookie right-hander Logan Verrett will make his first major league start in Harvey's place.

Harvey (11-7, 2.57 ERA) currently sits at 154 innings after missing the entire 2014 season.

Given the determination to skip a Harvey start, manager Terry Collins said team officials decided to get it out of the way now, before crunch time arrives in trying to hold onto first place in the National League East. The Mets lead the Washington Nationals by five games.

"The last thing you want to do is keep putting it off or waiting to hear when it's going to happen," Harvey said. "Obviously, the innings are adding up. We've kind of been discussing that the whole time. I told them I was completely on board with whatever they want to do. I just preferred that it would be sooner rather than later.

"Toward the end of September, if we're still where we are, I want to be as sharp as possible going into October. Now seemed like a good time. Everybody discussed different options, and they seemed like this was the best one."

The Mets similarly plan to have rookie Noah Syndergaard skip a start in the near future, although the right-hander will proceed with his next start, on Tuesday in Philadelphia.

Team officials also plan to conserve innings by going to a six-man rotation once rosters expand Sept. 1. Rookie Steven Matz is due to become that sixth starter.

Matz has made two minor league rehab starts so far as he works back from a strained lat muscle. The Mets intended for Matz to return from the disabled list after making only one more rehab start, but Matz lacked sharpness while pitching for Class A St. Lucie on Thursday, and the original plan is no longer set in stone.

The Mets believe that keeping Harvey and Syndergaard's innings in check will help them remain healthy in the long term. Still, the Mets arguably are playing a dangerous game in diluting their rotation.

In 2007, the Mets squandered a large division lead and ultimately missed the postseason by one game. That year, they gave six starts in August and September to Brian Lawrence and gave Philip Humber a spot start during the final week of the season in an effort to give Pedro Martinez extra rest.

Mets officials counter that using Matz in a six-man rotation in September, and Verrett for spot starts for Harvey and Syndergaard, does not nearly dilute the rotation in the way Lawrence and Humber once did.

Harvey was on pace for roughly 210 regular-season innings. The Mets hope to keep that number closer to 190 innings.

Syndergaard, at 110⅔ innings, already has exceeded last season's innings count by two.

Collins said one skipped start apiece for Harvey and Syndergaard will be sufficient. The Mets do not plan on shutting down either for the postseason, as the Nationals did with Stephen Strasburg in 2012.

Collins suggested Harvey had been dealing with arm fatigue of late, although the right-hander's results appeared unimpacted. He has a 0.43 ERA in 21 innings over three starts in August.

"You can maybe see that. I don't know that the radar readings were as high," Harvey said about arm fatigue. "But my body felt as good as it has. I felt fine."

Verrett, 25, has made 11 relief appearances between the Texas Rangers and Mets this season. He suggested that his comfort level from already having worked with catcher Travis d'Arnaud will aid him, as opposed to if he had been called up from the minors to make his debut as a starter.

Verrett added that he is unfazed by pitching in high-altitude Colorado. He noted that his final two starts with Triple-A Las Vegas came at higher elevations as well -- at Salt Lake City and El Paso.

"I feel like my last two starts got me ready a little bit," Verrett said.