Mets ace Harvey has torn ligament in elbow

Matt Harvey has a partially torn ligament in his right elbow, a

potentially devastating injury for the pitcher that had given the

foundering New York Mets reason to be hopeful about their

future.

For now, the 24-year-old Harvey and the Mets hope that he will

be able to avoid reconstruction surgery on the ulnar collateral

ligament. A full prognosis will not be made until swelling in the

elbow goes down in about two weeks.

”It was tough. Obviously it was the last thing I was expecting

when I went this morning,” Harvey said Monday. ”I am going to do

everything I can to avoid surgery.”

The National League’s All-Star game starter on his home field

this July, Harvey has been experiencing forearm tenderness for a

month or two but could not pinpoint exactly when it began. The

discomfort increased during his start Saturday against the Detroit

Tigers, when he allowed a career-high 13 hits.

Harvey admitted he was tired against the Tigers, the 26th start

of his first full season in the major leagues. Manager Terry

Collins said he noticed Harvey’s pitches weren’t as crisp, a sign

of fatigue.

But Collins didn’t know Harvey had any issues with his forearm

until Sunday and the ace went for an MRI at the Hospital for

Special Surgery a day later.

”Nothing is shooting in my elbow at all. That’s not the

issue,” Harvey said. ”When I heard the news, I was pretty

shocked. I’m still very optimistic.”

Harvey wasn’t the only one in the Mets organization stunned by

the news.

”This was a surprise to all of us,” general manager Sandy

Alderson said. ”Forearm pain can foretell problems with the elbow,

but in this particular circumstance there had been no indications

of that.”

Harvey wasn’t immediately placed on the disabled list. Carlos

Torres will take his spot in the rotation and face the Phillies on

Thursday.

Torres got two outs on Monday night in the Mets’ 2-1 loss to

Philadelphia that dropped New York to 58-71.

The No. 7 pick of the 2010 draft, Harvey is 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA.

He has a league-leading 191 strikeouts in 178 1-3 innings pitched

and was a top candidate for the NL Cy Young Award.

”It put everybody down,” catcher Travis d’Arnaud said. ”When

we heard the news everybody was just speechless. I just feel

terrible, man.”

The Mets were working on limiting Harvey’s innings to a little

more than 200 this season. Alderson said there is no real

scientific basis for managing young pitchers’ careers.

”These innings limits are not a guarantee of anything. They’re

certainly not based on any science,” Alderson said. ”This is a

kind of progressive injury that isn’t a function of, we don’t

believe in this case a specific incident or quote overuse. It’s an

anatomical fact that these things happen.”

The blow is particularly tough for an organization that has not

been to the playoffs since 2006, and hasn’t had a winning season in

its new ballpark that opened in `09.

But Harvey was the first of several top young pitchers who were

supposed to help lead New York back to the postseason, and Mets

captain David Wright cited the talent in the minor leagues as one

of the reasons he signed a big contract to remain in New York last

winter.

One of those rising stars, Zack Wheeler, started for the Mets on

Monday and took the loss.

Wheeler pitched impressively into the seventh inning, giving up

two runs and five hits. But Collins lifted him with two outs even

though Wheeler was about to face Phillies lefty Cliff Lee.

”We said before the game that 105 was the limit,” Collins

said. ”Obviously, after what happened earlier today we’re sticking

to it.”

Harvey made a marvelous big league debut last season, striking

out 11 in 5 2-3 innings against the Diamondbacks and has been even

more dominant this season.

Big like classic power pitchers Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens,

with a fastball that regularly reaches 98 mph, Harvey flirted with

no-hitters several times this season. The excitement at Citi Field

every time he pitched was not present on most other nights, and the

Mets took to calling his starts ”Harvey Day.”

”This is a great loss for the Mets. Matt Harvey has given us a

lot of hope this year for the future. He’s been our shining star

this year,” said David Greenfield of Fairlawn, N.J., a

self-professed Mets fan since their first season of 1962. ”He’s a

class guy, and Mets fans need something to hang our hats on.”

The news about Harvey comes just days after the same doctor,

David Altchek, recommended Tommy John Surgery for teammate Jeremy

Hefner.

Also, right-hander Jenrry Mejia returned from

elbow-reconstruction surgery last September. After making just five

starts this year, he went back on the DL and is likely going to

have an operation to remove bone spurs from the elbow. Two-time Cy

Young Award winner Johan Santana had his second shoulder surgery

and is out for the season.

While Harvey hopes to avoid surgery by strengthening the muscles

in the shoulder and arm, Alderson was a bit more realistic in

discussing the elbow. He said this type of injury can worsen over

time and that even if the ace with a Russian supermodel for a

girlfriend can keep from having an operation now, he may need it in

several years.

Tommy John surgery has become a fairly common procedure for

pitchers. Recovery time usually takes at least a year, and many

have made successful returns. Washington Nationals ace Stephen

Strasburg had the operation after a tantalizing debut. His teammate

Jordan Zimmermann, an All-Star this year, also made a successful

return.

AP freelancer Scott Orgera contributed to this report.