SAN FRANCISCO -- The New York Mets will skip ace Matt Harvey's final first-half start while allowing him to pitch next Tuesday in the All-Star Game at Citi Field. Manager Terry Collins said the primary motivation is to keep Harvey's innings count in check while avoiding shutting him down at the end of the season. Collins said a secondary benefit is to allow a blister on Harvey's right index finger to fully heal.
"We've got to get this guy somehow deep into the summer, so we thought now would be the time to back him off," Collins said.
Right-hander Carlos Torres instead will start Saturday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Torres had been slated to enter the rotation after the All-Star break anyway in the slot vacated by Shaun Marcum, who will undergo season-ending surgery Monday for thoracic outlet syndrome.
Collins suggested it is not inconsistent to have Harvey skip a regular-season start while allowing him to pitch three days after that abandoned outing in an All-Star Game.
"It's only an inning," Collins said about the All-Star Game, which is being hosted by the Mets. "... That way, when he comes out in the second half, at least he's got some action in the last 10 days."
Harvey logged 169 1/3 innings last season between the majors and minors before getting shut down after a Sept. 19 start because he reached an innings cap. Collins said no precise innings limit has been set for this year, but a 30 percent innings jump is probably appropriate. That would give Harvey about 220 innings this season. He already has logged 130 innings over 19 starts. The club estimates he has 14 starts remaining.
"I don't like not playing or being able to participate," Harvey said. "In the long run I'd rather miss a start now than miss all of September and not be able to pitch because of innings limits.
"If they felt that this was a good time to skip over some things, if this keeps me pitching all year long and to the end of September, to the end of the season, that's a decision they're going to make. In the long run I don't have a say in really what goes on."
Harvey offered no reservations about skipping a regular-season game and then pitching in an exhibition days later.
"I really don't think that had anything to do with it," Harvey said about All-Star Game availability contributing to the decision to skip his final first-half start. "I think it was between the blister and the innings that are getting up there."
As for affecting the integrity of the NL Central race, Collins said the Mets need to look out for themselves. He said if a race was not impacted now, it would end up getting impacted in September when Harvey otherwise would reach an innings cap.
Collins noted races often get affected by September call-ups. He speculated the Mets would call up center-field prospect Matt den Dekker in September and play him, even though starting him might not be the optimal lineup for a win that day against a team vying for a postseason spot.
"We've got to worry about the New York Mets," Collins said. "And I understand the integrity of the game and all that stuff. But we've got to worry about Matt Harvey and the New York Mets in the long run. What are the NL East teams going to say if this guy is not pitching in September?"
Collins labeled it "very important" for Harvey to complete the season by shaving innings now. The manager reasoned that minor league seasons end in early September, and suggested there is a benefit to getting used to the grind of pitching until the end of that month if not into October. That way, Harvey would be accustomed to pitching that late in the year for when the Mets are playing meaningful late-season and postseason games in future seasons.
Collins said the Mets are more inclined to shave innings in some of Harvey's second-half starts than continue to skip him at points. Harvey also said he preferred not being skipped, because it would affect his rhythm. The manager added there is a possibility of a six-man rotation late in the season after September call-ups, but not now.
"There's going to be nights where he's electric and going to go deep into a game. And the next time he will probably be limited," Collins said.
As for how Harvey handled the news, Collins said: "He understood. I said, 'You're going to be more pissed if we shut you down Sept. 2.' He said, 'Yes I will.'"
Despite a three-game winning streak, the Mets are nine games under .500 and trail the division-leading Atlanta Braves by 11.5 games.
Asked if Harvey's postseason would be affected if the Mets made an improbable run, as Stephen Strasburg experienced last year with the Washington Nationals, Collins suggested in that case Harvey's respite might be in-season to allow him to pitch in October.
"That's hypothetical," Collins said. "I'll tell you one thing: If we start getting on that run ... he may be taking a little, short nap. Just a little short one."