NEW YORK — Mets right-hander Matt Harvey intends to undergo season-ending surgery to address thoracic outlet syndrome with the expectation he will be fully ready for the 2017 season, agent Scott Boras told ESPN.
Dr. Robert Thompson is expected to perform the procedure sometime in the next week in St. Louis.
Harvey’s issue involves muscles in the neck and shoulder impinging a nerve in his right shoulder. Thompson will remove one of Harvey’s ribs to provide space, which should reduce the compression on the affected nerve and restore feeling in his pitching arm and fingers.
Boras said a short-term fix of a nerve-blocking injection would not have been an appropriate remedy.
“The doctors clearly recommended that he have this done, mainly so that he can be ready for ’17,” Boras said. “The rehab on this is six months. Now, if there was a small window of a season, you might be able to take a shot. It’s actually Botox, which relaxes the muscles. That’s not a long-term solution.
“The only way this is going to be treated appropriately — and obviously we don’t want to do anything to affect next year — is to get this surgically taken care of.”
Boras said the issue explains why Harvey had produced underwhelming numbers this season. Harvey is 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA in 17 starts.
“He just didn’t feel he had the command and feeling,” Boras said. “He just didn’t really feel he was himself mechanically. He couldn’t stay behind the ball. He felt strong body-wise, but just something was there. Finally, when this thing got a little more pronounced, we said let’s take a look at this potential option and got him to Dr. Thompson. Sure enough, he strongly tested positive for TOS.
“He’s felt this way since spring training, but he wanted to gut it out, try to do it, until finally he’s going, ‘Look, I’m just feeling like I don’t feel the baseball the same.’ Once we heard that, I was like, ‘Maybe we have a TOS situation,’ and got him over to Dr. Thompson.”
General manager Sandy Alderson noted Thursday that any surgery involves risk and there is a chance Harvey will not regain his All-Star form. Still, Boras expressed confidence that the Dark Knight will rise again.
“I remember Kenny Rogers had it done,” Boras said. “A good example is the Cardinals’ [Jaime] Garcia had it done recently. So we’ve had very good results, because basically the pitchers can feel their fingertips and the baseball, so they can get their command back. At the extension, at the release point, you have the feeling back that you didn’t have before. So it really affects where the ball is located.”
Boras had not been enthralled last season when the Mets had Harvey throw 216 innings, including the postseason. That was the most innings ever by an MLB pitcher in his first season back from Tommy John surgery.
However, Boras said there is no conclusive link between that workload and the TOS issue.
“When you’re talking about a nerve impingement, muscularity, that kind of thing, I’m not sure you can draw conclusions one way or the other,” Boras said. “… I can’t draw any conclusions other than we were fine in ’15 and felt this in ’16.”
Right-hander Logan Verrett is poised to take Harvey’s start Saturday against the Washington Nationals. Manager Terry Collins said he expected Verrett would open the second half in the rotation as well.
Alderson indicated Thursday, before Harvey had officially resolved to have surgery, that the Mets would at least investigate external starting-pitching options. That route probably intensifies with the clarity that Harvey will miss the remainder of the season.
Zack Wheeler has experienced a pair of setbacks this season as he works back from Tommy John surgery. Wheeler has not yet resumed throwing off the top of the mound since receiving a cortisone injection in June to address nerve irritation in the elbow. He would not be ready to join the Mets until late August at the earliest.