Posted on October 12, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
After missing most of the 2016 season due to thoracic outlet syndrome, New York Mets’ pitcher Matt Harvey is expected to be ready for the start of spring training in 2017. Earlier this week, Harvey began throwing for the first time since undergoing surgery in July, and his agent, Scott Boras, expects him to be at full strength by the start of spring training next year, news that is music to the ears of the Mets.
“You kind of rely on the doctors here, and the doctor was extremely positive about the results of what he found when he did the operation, and the relief that he gave Matt,” Boras said. “It was really just a nerve compression. He didn’t have sensation [in his fingers]. And so clearly, the procedure allowed that relief where the nerve is now free and he should have full feeling in his hand.”
Of course, there is less track record for pitchers recovering from thoracic outlet syndrome and returning to the big leagues compared to Tommy John surgery, which has become all-too-common for major league pitchers.
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Former Met Chris Young is one example of a pitcher who returned from the condition to be an effective big league pitcher. Young even defeated the Mets in the 2015 World Series post surgery. However, he is not as reliant on power and velocity as Harvey, so he may not be the best case study for guaranteeing Harvey returns to the pitcher he was in the past.
“This is not like a Tommy John, where you have a ligament issue,” Boras explains. “It’s really about relief of nerve compression. So you get a little bit more of a higher probability rate on those kinds of things.”
Harvey, of course, has also undergone Tommy John surgery, missing the entire 2014 season as a result. He then threw 216 innings between the regular season and postseason in 2015. It’s unclear whether such a heavy workload in his first year back from Tommy John may have contributed to him developing thoracic outlet syndrome. Either way, Harvey spent the first half of 2016 pitching without normal feeling in his arm and fingers, contributing to a 4-10 record and 4.86 ERA over 17 starts.
Despite all the uncertainty surrounding the surgery and all the time Harvey has missed in the last three years, Boras remains confident Harvey will be healthy and back to normal in 2017. “The doctor was very clear,” Boris explains. “The doctor’s certainty is that he was able to give a nerve space so it could function normally.”
Harvey is one of several Mets starting pitchers who will come to spring training coming off an injury. Steven Matz recently underwent a procedure to remove a bone spur from his elbow; Jacob deGrom had surgery to correct a nerve issue in his elbow; and Zack Wheeler has missed the last two seasons while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
How healthy those four pitchers are at the start of spring training, as well as their ability to stay healthy throughout the season, will have a massive impact on New York’s season in 2017. If Harvey and company are healthy next year, the Mets will undoubtedly be contenders to return to the World Series.