Matt Harvey's season is officially over after having surgery Monday to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome. The trapped nerves had been causing numbness and discomfort in his pitching arm and shoulder, he said in early July.
Harvey ended the year 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA in 17 starts.
People close to the team and player all say Harvey will be 100 percent by Spring Training. However, how he'll throw, and what type of pitcher he'll be, remains a mystery...
Josh Beckett, Chris Carpenter, Noah Lowry, Chris Young, Jaime Garcia, Shaun Marcum, and a handful of other big-league pitchers, all had similar surgeries to correct similar issues. However, none of them returned to being the same pitcher they had been. And, in some cases, like Lowry, it essentially ended their career.
That said, "This is not a death sentence," according to former Mets prospect Brant Rustich, who underwent the procedure in 2010. Rustich said he made the mistake of pitching with TOS for ten years before it was diagnosed. However, had it been identified and corrected earlier, as is seemingly the case with Harvey, it could have saved Rustich's career.
"When the doctor saw my nerves in surgery, he told me I pitched far too long with TOS," Rustich explained, noting that the more a pitcher throws with TOS the more nerve damage is done.
According to Rustich, he did nothing about his TOS because he thought pitching with nerve pain and numbness was part of the experience.
"I ruptured a tendon in my middle finger because I gripped the ball so tight, because I couldn't even feel the baseball," he explained. "As we get bigger, as men when we age, it can make TOS worse as our chest/thoracic gets larger. Harvey is nowhere near where I was in my stage of TOS and that's why I feel he can get it corrected and come back better next year."
I'm told by experts that TOS surgery should not have a direct impact on velocity, especially for a guy like Harvey, who is just 27 years old. However, it almost always impacts a player's balance, which can throw off his command, which can often impact velocity as guys start tinkering with their mechanics.
Worst-case scenario, Harvey may need to learn how to live without his dominant fastball, as was the case for most of the guys mentioned above when they returned. It's also possible Harvey bucks the trend and finds more velocity and better command, because the issue has been resolved, though the track record of success above is limited.