NEW YORK -- When Matt Harvey sustained a partially torn ligament in his right elbow, there was immediate uncertainty for the Mets' rotation in 2014. As he continues to determine whether Tommy John Surgery is necessary, the Mets have to determine who will fill out their rotation next season.
"It's going to affect our situation," general manager Sandy Alderson said Monday. "I think that even if Matt doesn't have the surgery, it's going to affect our plan."
Alderson said he does not expect to sign a high-end, free-agent pitcher. Instead, he'd look for someone to essentially serve as a stopgap until other options are completely healthy or ready to be promoted from the Minor Leagues.
At this point, Alderson said he considers Dillon Gee, Jon Niese and Zack Wheeler to be three definite starters. Alderson has other potential starters already in the organization, and mentioned Jenrry Mejia as a possibility. After making five starts for the Mets in the second half of the season, Mejia underwent surgery to remove a bone spur from his pitching elbow.
The Mets also have a collection of Minor League pitchers close to being ready for the Major Leagues, though not quite at the start of next season.
Rafael Montero spent this year with Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Las Vegas. The 22-year-old was 5-4 with a 3.05 ERA in 16 starts with Las Vegas. Noah Syndergaard, another hard-throwing right-hander, is only 20 and hasn't pitched above the Double-A level. Jacob deGrom, 25, also has plenty of potential, but has only made 14 starts with Las Vegas.
"I'd be a little uncomfortable relying on either the young guys or an injured player filling those last two spots at the beginning of the season," Alderson said, "knowing how you can go through starting pitching over the course of a season."
Alderson signed Aaron Harang and Daisuke Matsuzaka toward the end of this season to fill spots in the rotation. He said, "they and others will be in the mix." But an expensive free-agent starter is not likely to be among them.
Harvey is still working with physical therapists at the Hospital of Special Surgery in Manhattan to build up enough arm strength to throw again, even just on flat ground. Alderson said Harvey doesn't need to undergo any more MRIs or clinical evaluations, but he hopes to see him throwing shortly.
While Harvey hopes to avoid surgery and instead go through a rehabilitation process to pitch at some point in 2014, the Mets still have to figure out what their rotation will look like at the start of next season.
"Would that involve somebody at the higher end or somebody at the mid-range who could get us to Montero, Syndergaard, DeGrom, etc?" Alderson said. "I'd be very surprised if we go high-end there."
Chris Iseman is an associate reporter for MLB.com.