- Matt Ehalt, ESPN New York contributor
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NEW YORK -- As injured New York Mets right-hander Matt Harvey has yet to start his throwing program to rehab a partial UCL tear in his pitching arm, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said Monday the team is looking for progress sometime soon.
Harvey is planning to forgo surgery and rehab his tear.
"The fact that he's not throwing now, I wouldn't say is concerning, but we need to see some progress. I hope that he will be throwing shortly," Alderson said at a news conference. "I want to emphasize this isn't a rehab program. This is a diagnostic program. We'll see what happens."
Harvey announced in mid-September he would attempt a six-to-eight-week throwing program rather than immediately undergo Tommy John surgery.
Surgery is still an option for the 24-year-old, but he has time to try the rehab program without consequence of missing any of the 2014 season. If he has to undergo surgery, Harvey would miss all of 2014 but should be fine for 2015.
Alderson said Harvey is still in the preplanned time frame in which he needs to start throwing to prove he can avoid the surgery, and that time frame has not been delayed.
Mets manager Terry Collins said Sunday that Harvey is working with physical therapists at the Hospital for Special Surgery in Manhattan, and the hope is he will head to the team's complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla., to begin his throwing program soon.
Collins has said that Harvey likely will pitch in the Arizona Fall League, which begins Oct. 8. While Alderson said it's a possibility, he added he's not sure it will get to that point. Alderson previously said he wants to see Harvey in live action to prove he doesn't need surgery.
"[He] needs to throw to a near-competitive level pain-free, and perhaps on more than one occasion," Alderson told reporters Sept. 23 in Cincinnati.
Knowing that Harvey could potentially miss all of next year, Alderson said Harvey's situation will affect the Mets moving forward. He reiterated Monday he considers only Jon Niese, Dillon Gee and Zack Wheeler as definite starters for 2014, and said the other two spots are open for grabs. Harvey would take a spot if his rehab program goes to plan.
The Mets have some good young arms in their farm system, but Alderson said he'd be uncomfortable about starting the season with the young pitchers, or a player coming off injury, in the rotation. He mentioned the team could look into the free-agent market, although likely not for a top-end starter, and it may avoid making a big trade.
"We have to be careful we don't turn a strength into a weakness," Alderson said. "With Matt out, it makes it a little more difficult to give up two or three guys we know are right on the cusp."
As the Mets looks for options in their rotation, Alderson said the team would consider bringing back veteran lefty starter Johan Santana on a small deal. Santana's contract for 2014, valued at $25 million, will be bought out for $5.5 million. He made $25.5 million last season despite missing all of it after undergoing surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his left shoulder.
"I think that's a possibility," Alderson told WFAN Radio, referring to Santana being a Met next season. "I don't really know what Johan's thinking. We'll talk to him, I'm sure, over the next couple of weeks but I think he wants to pitch. We'll just have to see what the market is for these guys and how much of our resources we want to allocate to somebody coming off injury or somebody you hope was able to pitch for you at a higher level."
Meawhile, Harvey, who was a Cy Young candidate, has been adamant about avoiding surgery. He went 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA in 26 starts, striking out 191 hitters in 178 1/3 innings while allowing 135 hits in his first full season with the team. His WHIP was 0.931.
"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?" Harvey said during the season. "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."
10mRandy Jennings, Special to ESPN.com