NEW YORK — Three of the New York Mets’ young starting pitchers have already been selected as All-Stars during their brief careers now that Noah Syndergaard is poised to make his first appearance next Tuesday in San Diego.
And there is no danger this class will be a repeat of Generation K. That hyped trio of late-1990s Mets prospects — Bill Pulispher, Paul Wilson and Jason Isringhausen — failed to realize their collective potential.
This group has already performed at a level that makes any comparison senseless.
Yet as the Mets send Matt Harvey to St. Louis to be examined by thoracic outlet syndrome specialist Robert Thompson on Thursday, it is perfectly valid to wonder this: Will Harvey, Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler ever produce one full rotation turn together for the Mets?
By the time Syndergaard debuted in May 2015, Wheeler had undergone Tommy John surgery two months earlier. Now, with Wheeler still more than a month away from returning from that elbow procedure because of a pair of setbacks, Harvey is experiencing elbow discomfort and has been placed on the disabled list. Will he require season-ending surgery? It’s too soon to know. But it’s entirely possible that whenever Wheeler returns in August or beyond, Harvey will still be on the shelf.
Meanwhile, Matz and Syndergaard are both pitching with bone spurs in their pitching elbows. Matz’s spur will need to be surgically removed, although the Mets hope it can wait until the offseason and that anti-inflammatory medication will get him to this season’s finish line.
It’s a reminder of how fragile starting pitching can be, and how expecting a decade of production is foolish.
Make no mistake: The shelf life for this group as a unit is ticking. Even if Harvey is retained and not traded this offseason — and it is getting harder to envision him getting dealt considering this season’s subpar production and current shoulder woes — his free agency nonetheless does not seem so distant anymore. Harvey is eligible for free agency after the 2018 season, in the same class as fellow Scott Boras client Bryce Harper.
Still, as the Mets are poised to close the first half with a four-game showdown against the first-place Washington Nationals, it’s hardly time for gloom and doom. After getting swept by the Nats in late June in D.C., the Mets returned home and swept the Chicago Cubs in four games, then took two of three from the Miami Marlins. The bats are seemingly awakening, at least a little, with valuable contributions from Wilmer Flores and Brandon Nimmo. And the rotation has been bolstered by a string of solid performances from 43-year-old Bartolo Colon, whose re-signing last offseason now looks fortuitous.
Sure, Logan Verrett might be getting the baseball on Saturday against Washington instead of Harvey. But if there is a fixable physical explanation for Harvey’s 4-10 record and 4.86 ERA this season, and not just a nebulous hangover from last season’s workload, perhaps that’s a silver lining to his current predicament.
As for whether the hyped five young members of the Mets rotation will ever pitch together at one time, the chances are starting to look slimmer, at least for this season. And after that, who knows how much longer the group will remain intact?