Should Billingsley Setback Influence Harvey’s Rehab Schedule?

If you haven’t heard, Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley — who was recovering from Tommy John surgery performed in April 2013 — was shut down for the rest of the season with a torn flexor tendon.

Should that news affect how the Mets allow Jeremy Hefner and/or Matt Harvey to proceed with their rehabilitation from the same surgery?

There’s not a simple answer to this question.

First and foremost, the news of Billingsley should absolutely NOT affect either of the Mets pitchers’ timetables. Only the individual pitcher’s comfort and progress should influence the recovery timetable.

Should the Mets be cautious about their pitchers’ rehab? Of course, absolutely — but that should be the case regardless of whether Billingsley had a setback or not. And by “cautious,” we don’t mean “slow.” Rather, it means that the pitcher must pay close attention to his body, share information about what and how he’s feeling with the appropriate people (trainer, rehab coordinator, doctor, etc.), and the team must properly interpret what the pitcher is communicating and adjust his rehab schedule accordingly. In almost no case is it intelligent or effective to arbitrarily slow down a pitcher’s rehab schedule, assuming the pitcher is progressing without discomfort or other incident. If the recovery process is going well, in fact, it can be dangerous to halt it. The point of rehab is to rebuild and re-train the muscle fibers, and the only way to do that is by putting a gradual and consistent load on them. If you are working and pushing the muscles consistently over a significant time period, they will get stronger. However, if you work and push them and then suddenly stop, then the muscles stop developing.

Which is why I’m befuddled by the Mets’ decision to prevent Matt Harvey from throwing off a mound on schedule — according to various reports, he was supposed to throw off of a mound for the first time on June 10, but, per The Daily News, ” after consultation with team doctor Dr. David Altchek and surgeon Dr. James Andrews — decided to slow the pace of of Harvey’s rehab.” Further, from the same article, pitching coach Dan Warthen‘s reply to when Harvey might throw off a mound was, “It hasn’t been determined yet.”

From the perspective of an outsider such as myself — who has no knowledge of what’s really happening, and therefore, talking out of one’s arse — I would want Harvey up on a mound as soon as possible, to get a look at his mechanics and make any necessary adjustments right away. Again, this is assuming that Harvey is feeling good, has no discomfort, and the rehab process has been smooth sailing so far. The sooner Harvey gets on a mound and gets the flaw that caused the injury fixed, the better chance he has of returning to the dominating force he was prior to the injury. Waiting around for the sake of waiting around, or because the assumption that “holding back” and “being cautious” are the same thing (they’re not, necessarily), doesn’t make sense to me. Again, maybe there are details not being shared with the public.

However, sport kinesiologist Angel Borrelli has one plausible explanation of why the Mets chose to hold back Harvey. You can hear her take on that and the Billingsley situation, as well as learn more about the rehab process from TJ surgery in general, by listening below:

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Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. friend June 20, 2014 at 11:29 am
    More Linguistic Legerdemain

    “close attention to his body”

    Good show. Grammatical Neanderthals relish replacing his with their.


    But you said you don’t like British spellings.

    “(they’re not, necessarily)”

    Bad comma, really bad.

    • Joe Janish June 20, 2014 at 1:41 pm
      I’ve been on the fence about using “their” in place of “his/her.” In this case, it has to be “his,” because there are no female pitchers in MLB.

      “arse” seems less rude than the three-letter version.This is a family friendly blog after all.

      I like the comma there because I wanted a pause, and, the only way to create a pause in type is to place a comma.

      See what I did there?

      One of these days someone is going to actually listen to one of these podcasts and comment on what he/she heard. I just know it!

      • friend June 20, 2014 at 2:13 pm
        The comma does create a pause but it also removes the negative from not necessarily, and turns it into a positive, that is equivalent to “necessarily, they’re not”, which I don’t think was your intent.

        If the comma’s purpose were to create pauses,,, you could create longer pauses by using more of them. The comma is actually intended to create breaks in locations where the flow might otherwise lead the reader to misinterpret the meaning.

  2. DanB June 20, 2014 at 2:06 pm
    Joe, i bet a lot of people (like me) read your blog at work on our phones. It is hard to play back video. I have enjoyed the few I have caught but lacking a medical degree, there is not much to comment about. I am curious, though, about quotes from Harvey. He has said he doesn’t know when he will pitch off a mound and that the team will tell him when it is okay. Since when does a third party dictate medical procedures? What does it say in the player’s CBA? I would think the doctors would be telling both the player and the team their recommendations. I would never let my employeer dictate medical procedures to me. Are you telling me Jeff Wilpon got a medical degree in his two years at community college? (sorry, but I can’t resist zinging Jeff about that. I do respect community colleges)
    • Joe Janish June 20, 2014 at 5:20 pm
      Dan, thanks for the feedback. Would downloading the podcast from iTunes and listening that way be any easier? I’m looking into all ways of disseminating / distributing the information, as it’s incredibly helpful and important toward changing the mindset and helping pitchers stay healthy.

      As for the Harvey situation, it’s abominable. I agree with you completely, and Angel and I have been having this discussion for weeks — both during the podcasts and offline. Ultimately it is Matt Harvey’s future on the line, and Matt has to make decisions for Matt. His elbow injury wasn’t dumb luck or inevitable — there was a root cause that needs to be investigated and corrected. Of course, Matt also needs someone qualified to find and fix whatever mechanical flaw he had that caused the injury in the first place — and Dan Warthen is not qualified (unless he recently earned an advanced degree in kinesiology).

      The rash of recent SECOND Tommy John surgeries and major setbacks by pitchers during TJ rehab should be sending off bells, whistles, red flags, etc., that there are unresolved issues with the injured pitchers — namely, mechanical flaws. Every single pitcher with a torn UCL has a dangerous, yet correctable, mechanical flaw, and every single injured pitcher has been working with a flawed throwing regimen that does not include ample recovery. But all the knuckleheads in charge keep talking about travel ball, throwing too hard, and other theories that have no research nor evidence behind them. Why it’s taking baseball so long to consider evidence-based research as a possible solution is mind-boggling.