PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New York Mets ace Matt Harvey has tried to remain optimistic the last four months, but even he sees the possibility of pitching in 2014 slipping away.

The 24-year-old ace arrived at Mets spring training camp Sunday, had his reconstructed right elbow checked out and declared that everything was fine. However, the ultimate goal of returning this season to help the Mets be a contender in the National League East appears to be out of reach.

“Everything’s going well, but it’s a little bit difficult of a day because I’m starting to realize the year’s not going to go the way I want it to,” said Harvey, addressing the media from the bench in the home dugout at the Mets’ training complex.

Unlike teammate Eric Young Jr., who arrived happily at camp and enthusiastically shook hands, fist-bumped or hugged almost every player, Harvey was quiet and reserved. He seemed resigned in assessing his situation after having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow on Oct. 22.

The first day at camp proved to be difficult, he said.

“It’s hard. It’s hard seeing all the guys and seeing them put their uniforms on and realizing spring training’s going to go a little bit differently this year. Today’s definitely been a little bit of a struggle, but hopefully I’ll be back out there soon,” said Harvey, who was 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA in 26 outings last year and started the All-Star Game at Citi Field.

“I’ve come to the realization I just have to listen to (the doctors and trainers),” Harvey said. “Right now I just have to take things slow and do what they say.”

In late August of his second season with the Mets, Harvey was diagnosed with a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Initially he decided to rehab the injury, but in early October the 2010 first-round pick opted to have the surgery and begin the rehab process.

“I knew the longer I waited the longer I’d be out and probably miss all of this year, so once I made the decision, I knew (returning in 2014) was not possible,” he said.

Harvey doesn’t regret waiting two months to have surgery, and he hasn’t discussed the 2014 season with the organization.

“I needed that time to make the decision and make sure it was the right one,” Harvey said. “I’m happy that I did things on my own time. Mentally, moving forward, that was a big thing for me to do.”

“I haven’t talked to them in-depth about (coming back),” he added. “I know they don’t want me to push, and I’m definitely not going to force things to happen earlier.”

Harvey will continue to prepare and try to be ready to return, but the Mets have the final say.

“We’re still in the strength phase and trying to make sure flexibility and strength are there. We haven’t really talked about when I can throw, but it’s (the Mets’) decision, and I can only make sure I’m strong and flexible,” he said.

Harvey said it will be difficult watching the games this year, especially since the Mets have shored up the roster by adding Curtis Granderson and Chris Young in the outfield and a few pitchers, most notably Bartolo Colon and Jose Valverde.

“You know, I’d really like to be around them, learn and be able to help them with things that have been successful for me in the past,” Harvey said. “The more time I can spend with them and the team…maybe I can contribute in certain ways.”

Harvey told WFAN host Mike Francesa earlier this month that it took some time to realize surgery was his best option.

“It was tough. I never thought it would happen. As a pitcher, you don’t want it to happen. I wasn’t having the same symptoms that you hear other guys have, no sharp soothing pains. My forearm was a little tight,” Harvey told Francesa. “It was a tough process to come to grips with, but after waking up enough times worrying if today is the day or tomorrow is the day to have surgery, I had just had enough.”

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