NEW YORK -- Count Scott Boras in the conservative camp regarding how Matt Harvey as well as other pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery should proceed.
Boras said the best medical information now suggests 14 to 16 months is the optimal time for a pitcher to rehab before returning to a game.
New York Mets
Since the Boras-represented Harvey underwent surgery on Oct. 22, 2013, that pretty much suggests the best course of action is staying out of games until spring training. And that aligns Boras with the Mets’ thinking.
Harvey has been the one eager to get into major league games this season, although the ace now appears resigned to accepting he will not. The Mets will not sign off on Harvey getting on a mound for the first time since the procedure until after the All-Star break. Harvey had wanted to get on a mound last month and be in major league games by August.
“The doctors are always telling us 14 to 16 months they’re having the higher success rates than they are the 10- to 12-month period,” Boras said. “So is that a definitive measure? The doctors will always tell you they’re unsure. But with elite athletes, high ‘velo’ guys, to err on conservatism and more time I think is the proper course.”
Boras said he nonetheless salutes Harvey’s eagerness.
“Look, a competitive athlete is never comfortable with the timeline,” the agent said. “I just watched Matt throw. He looks great.”
Alderson has mentioned the fall instructional league -- which starts in late September and runs through early October -- as an alternative for Harvey to pitch in games late this year, so the ace has peace of mind heading into the winter. That would appease Harvey wanting to get into games but avoid the adrenaline induced by pitching in a major league stadium.
But even the fall instructional league is within 14 months of surgery. So Boras offered no indication even that’s advisable.
“It’s just that most of the doctors tell you they’d like to see 14 months,” Boras reiterated.
Boras’ agency recently has done its own Tommy John study independent of MLB, studying data since 2004. Among their high-profile clients who have undergone the procedure include Stephen Strasburg, Jose Fernandez and Harvey.
Boras said pitchers generally fall into two groups -- the high-velocity pitchers that reach the majors from ages 19 to 21, and finesse-oriented pitchers who reach the majors around age 25. According to Boras, 18 percent of the first group end up having Tommy John surgery, whereas only 3 percent in that latter group end up requiring the procedure.
As a result, Boras proposed that first group -- whose bodies may not be fully mature -- be capped at 100 to 110 innings a season in the early years, with their workloads increasing at only 10-inning increments per year. Rosters could be expanded beyond 25 players to offset the more limited workloads. And while Boras recognizes that means more expense to teams, he suggested that expense pales in relation to the cost of losing a franchise pitcher for a year-plus to Tommy John rehab.
Still, Boras said he could not quibble with how the Mets handled Harvey since drafting him seventh overall in 2010. Nor, the agent added, could he quibble with how the Nationals handled Strasburg and the Marlins handled Fernandez.
Harvey logged 135 2/3 innings in 2011, at age 22. He logged 169 1/3 innings the following year between the majors and minors, with the Mets shutting him down in mid-September. Harvey was at 178 1/3 innings last season when the UCL tear was diagnosed.
“The clubs managed them extraordinarily well,” Boras said. “There was nothing they even stretched on the normal, customary dynamic.”