When Matt Harvey toes the rubber on Tuesday night in Los Angeles, the hour glass of his 2013 season will continue to run out. Every dynamic, scoreless inning will land the Mets ace and NL Cy Young contender closer to a September shutdown.

According to MLB.com’s Antony DiComo, the Mets will likely end Harvey’s season when he reaches the 200-inning plateau. Heading into tonight’s game, Harvey sits at 159.2 innings for the season, leaving him with just over 40 innings remaining before a shutdown.

Due to an elbow injury to Jeremy Hefner, the team has transitioned back to a five-man rotation. While that is much more palatable to Harvey, pitching every fifth day will speed up his end date. If the 24-year-old star averages 6.9 innings per start (his average in 23 starts this season) over the next month, he will hit the 200-inning mark within seven starts.

Considering the 46 games remaining in the Mets season, Harvey would likely miss at least the last two starts of the season if circumstances do not change or the Mets rearrange off days and skip starts to enable their ace to finish the last week of the season.

When speaking to DiComo, Harvey didn’t seem to mind missing a start or two, but anything more would bother the young right-handed pitcher.

“Obviously, I’m not going to be happy to miss any starts, but if it’s a week, I’m not going to look at it like I didn’t finish a full season,” Harvey said.

Of course, the news and eventual shutdown raises the question for Mets fans: Is the franchise doing the wrong thing by limiting Harvey’s innings?

If the objective revolves around Harvey hoisting the National League Cy Young trophy, the answer is a resounding yes.

Since 2004, factoring in the move towards restrictive pitch counts, no National League Cy Young winner threw less than 214.1 innings in the award winning season. In most years, the eventual winner pitched between 225-240 innings. With a voting populous that now values, well, value such as WAR, a major tenant to the formula is innings volume.

In other words, a high innings arm is more valuable than a similar, lower innings arm.

Harvey might be having a better season than Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals or Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, but shutting him down will prevent him from crossing the Cy Young finish line.

If the objective revolves around Harvey staying healthy for the long-term interests of the New York Mets, the Mets are not making a mistake.

In fact, they are doing the right thing for the best interests of the franchise.

Allowing Harvey to exceed 200 innings in 2013 would put his season ledger more than 30 full innings over his 2012 mark. Last season, splitting time between the minors and Flushing, Queens, Harvey threw 169.2 brilliant innings.

While it’s impossible to concoct a perfect formula for progressively developing young arms, 30 innings has become an acceptable jumping point in building up from year to year.

Ideally, if Harvey reaches 200 innings in 2013, he can be a full throttle, 230-inning arm for the Mets in the foreseeable future.

Depriving Mets fans of the ability to watch Harvey compete for Cy Young award and finish his first full season in New York may disappointing in the short-term, but worth the risk for the long-term in order to keep a dynamic young arm healthy.

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