BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Not since Tom Seaver has a Mets’ pitcher captivated the attention of the New York masses to the extent of Matt Harvey. In short time, the 28-year-old former first round draft pick rapidly emerged as the team’s ace, starting the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field and leading the Mets to the 2015 World Series. But when he took the mound in a rehab start for the Brooklyn Cyclones on Wednesday, Harvey found himself in a different position, seeking to return from injury while reclaiming his past dominance.
In his second rehab appearance since landing on the disabled list with a broken bone in his shoulder, Harvey turned in a vintage performance with glimpses of his prior form. He threw 36 pitches (26 strikes) and faced nine batters in three shutout innings, allowing just one hit. Although he felt fine in his previous rehab start on Saturday in Hudson Valley, Harvey appeared sharper in Cyclones’ 6-2 loss to Aberdeen as he showed improved command of his both his fastball and secondary offerings.
“Going out there and really getting the rhythm back, getting the timing back and getting used to game competition back was the biggest thing,” Harvey said regarding his rehab performance. “Obviously, you can come down here and feel great, but you don’t know how things how are going to go. After that, it is a feel thing and a mechanical thing.”
In the midst of his outing, Harvey gradually developed his release point and built confidence against every successive hitter and retired Aberdeen in order during the first inning. The lone hit against Harvey came with one out in the second inning on a single to right field from Garrett Copeland. Harvey later picked off Copeland at second base to end the frame and closed the evening by striking out the side in the third with a velocity ranging in the low to mid-90s. While Harvey’s goal is to rejoin the Mets eventually, he remains cognizant of the ongoing process.
“As a starter, if you are only throwing one inning and a certain amount of pitches, it’s hard to get comfortable. Obviously, tonight going three innings and the next start hopefully some more, it will be about getting the rhythm and timing and getting comfortable on the mound again. It’s definitely a process and more of a step forward than anything. As far as results, go, you want to have good results, but if the ball is coming out well, I’ll be just fine.”
Injuries to the pitching staff were a major culprit to the Mets’ difficulties at the big league level during the 2017 season. In addition to Harvey, the club dealt the losses of Noah Syndergaard, Jeruys Familia, Zack Wheeler, and Robert Gsellman for significant periods of time. With the final month of the season approaching, the Mets hope for a healthy return for Familia, Syndergaard, and Harvey before year’s end with the goal of contending for the postseason in 2018.
“We want to win as many games as we can,” Harvey said about the Mets’ season. Obviously going into next season to finish this year strong is important. Syndergaard and Familia are close (to returning), so we are all very excited.”
“He’s been out for two and a half months and has had a tough time, but hopefully the way he looked tonight, he can keep that going,” Brooklyn manager Edgardo Alfonzo said. “The is the guy we (the Mets) need on the big league team. He is one of those warrior types that fight to get on the field, and he’ll be ready in a couple of starts if he keeps this going.”
When an established player rehabs with a minor league club, his presence resonates throughout his stint. During his brief stay with the Cyclones, Harvey had the opportunity to connect with his minor league teammates and the organization. He also experienced the atmosphere of playing in Brooklyn for the first time and remained in proximity to the Mets a short distance from Citi Field.
“This was my first time in here in Brooklyn, and all of the guys were great. The baseball season is a grind, and the biggest thing is to work hard every day and get your stuff done every night,” Harvey said. “I took for granted a lot of small things I may have looked past like arm care or taking care of my body. That’s something I would definitely suggest to them (the young players).”