Rookies and Veterans with Something to Prove

Harvey avoids surgery for now

BY JOE RINI

Matt HarveyWith the championship drama concentrated at the Louis Armstrong Stadium side of Flushing this September, perhaps the skirmish between the Mets and Phillies for third place has about as much drama as two duelists who turn and fire water pistols at each other.

Yet, much is at stake for individual Mets this September. Recently debuted rookies Travis d’Arnaud and Wilmer Flores are trying to impress and earn a spot on the 2014 Mets. Veterans Frank Francisco and Tim Byrdak seek to regain their spots in the bullpen with their surgically repaired pitching arms. For Lucas Duda and Ruben Tejada, not quite the grizzled veteran nor the proverbial peach fuzzed rookie, perhaps it’s time to show they deserve another chance.

The 24-year old d’Arnaud delivered the game winning hit in 1-0 victory over the Marlins on Sunday but has struggled to get his average above .200. However, recognizing d’Arnaud’s long stint on the disabled list while at Triple-A Las Vegas, manager Terry Collins sounded an understanding note and praised the rookie’s defense, saying, “He’s handled himself very well… he receives that low pitch as good as anybody and he gets the called strikes.”

Flores started well in August after batting .321 in Las Vegas, but the 22-year old has struggled lately as he has battled ankle injuries down the stretch of the season. Collins praised the rookie’s desire to keep playing but noted, “But we also have got to be careful we don’t hurt him in a situation where we lose half the winter trying to rehab his ankles.”

Last season’s closer Frank Francisco made his 2013 debut against the Cleveland Indians on September 8 and was rewarded for inducing a rally ending eighth inning double-play with his first victory in relief since April 29, 2012. Francisco, whose season debut was delayed by elbow surgery and several setbacks in rehab, said after the game, “I was working the whole time to be here, especially in my free-agent year.”

Lefty reliever Tim Byrdak returned to the mound with a scoreless inning and a third against Atlanta on September 2, a year after tearing the anterior capsule in his pitching shoulder. “They’ve been tremendous to me and my family,” Byrdak said of the Mets. “They’ve given me this opportunity, so hopefully I can make the most of it.”

Lucas Duda and Ruben Tejada were in the Opening Day line-up in April but struggles on the field and injuries lead to extended time in Triple-A for both of them. Duda gets a chance to play at his natural position of first base on an extended basis this month while Tejada tries to reclaim his spot as the shortstop replacing Jose Reyes.

Of significant importance, it was announced on Tuesday that Matt Harvey would forego surgery for the moment and attempt to rehab his elbow to health. After receiving a second opinion from orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, Harvey will participate in a throwing regimen over the next six to eight weeks to strengthen the area around the elbow.

While surgery is still a possibility, Harvey will seek to duplicate the good fortune of Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay, who chose rehab over surgery in 2006 and subsequently won his second Cy Young Award in addition to four All-Star game selections.