Opting for Surgery Now Is Matt Harvey's Best Option

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistAugust 26, 2013

The New York Mets' dreams of an All-Star starting rotation in the near future took a huge hit on Monday when it was announced that ace Matt Harvey was being placed on the disabled list with a partially torn UCL in his right elbow. 

The UCL, for those that don't know, is the ligament better known as "The one that gets repaired during Tommy John surgery." However, the Mets are saying that Harvey will not have T.J. surgery at this time, but "it has not been ruled out."

While Harvey and the Mets continue to deliberate all of their options moving forward, I have two words for them: Dylan Bundy. 

Bundy, the Baltimore Orioles' star prospect coming into 2013, was shut down in spring training with what the team officially called "elbow stiffness," per the Baltimore Sun

Orioles executive vice president Dan Duquette was quoted in the piece as saying he didn't expect Bundy's problems to be a lingering issue. 

He's going to rest it for a few more days until it goes away, and we expect that to be in a couple of days and then at that point he would resume his throwing. He's had some tightness for a couple of days. I think it came to light last week.

Eventually, as the season moved on and Bundy's return was delayed, you got the sense that something more problematic was going on.

On April 29, Brittany Ghiroli, Orioles beat writer for MLB.com, reported the Orioles were shutting Bundy down for six weeks after he underwent platelet-rich plasma (PRP) by Dr. James Andrews. 

So what is PRP? The procedure consists of putting the patient’s blood through a special centrifuge to isolate platelets and growth factors, which are then injected back into the injured area to help spur healing. There aren’t any side effects, meaning it won’t make Bundy any worse, but there are various degrees of success with it and the timetable for recovery is incredible varied.

However, the treatment didn't work because, as Cliff Corcoran of Sports Illustrated pointed out, PRP doesn't work for ligament tears: "PRP may be effective in relieving the discomfort of tennis elbow or other inflammatory and osteoarthritic conditions, but it’s not going to heal a tear."

Then, on June 27, the Orioles and Bundy finally bit the bullet, ready to face the reality of the situation in front of them by having the star pitcher get Tommy John surgery to repair the elbow that had been giving him problems dating all the way back to March. 

I say all of that about Bundy in relation to Harvey to highlight just how much time the Orioles and Bundy wasted trying to avoid the surgery and what it did for his time frame to return. 

If Bundy had opted to go under the knife when he first found out he had elbow problems—for the record, the team did say he had no structural damage in his elbow initially—he would have been able to return to the mound, presumably, next April or May.

By waiting the extra time to do all he could to avoid the surgery and missing a year, Bundy won't be able to pitch until next July or August and has no shot at making the big leagues until 2015. 

Harvey's injury is a bit different because it happened so close to the end of the year, so perhaps there is some thinking that by just shutting everything down for a bit will allow the ligament to heal on its own. 

But we have been down this road so many times before that the story isn't going to have a happy ending. When you hear "torn UCL," you immediately know that the news is dire. 

Suppose Harvey does delay having the surgery with the hopes of testing things during spring training next February, makes it through a start or two before the pain starts coming back and the ligament tears even more, making surgery a necessity. 

In that instance, Harvey has lost five months from this initial diagnosis that he could be using to rehab and get his arm strength back. He would be out for all of 2014 and possibly some of 2015. 

By having surgery now, Harvey, 24, might be able to get a few rehab starts under his belt in 2014 and be completely healthy for 2015 when the Mets will also have a more-experienced Zack Wheeler and Noah Syndergaard in the rotation and a much better chance at competing for a playoff spot. 

You can appreciate the competitor in Harvey, and any other athlete doing what it takes to avoid surgery, but there comes a point where you have to think about the bigger picture. 

Bundy and the Orioles didn't recognize that, delaying his clock until 2015. Harvey and the Mets should take their cues from that situation. 


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