What can we make of Matt Harvey‘s latest start, one in which he threw 74 pitches and worked into the fifth inning (4.1 innings) for the first time this spring?
It was easily his best outing of the spring, not only in terms of length but also velocity when he threw three straight pitches at 95 mph., to strike out James McCann – who homered off him earlier in the game – in the fourth inning.
“A guy hits a home run off of you, and you always want to get him out the next time,” Harvey told reporters to show the competitive fire that has not abandoned him as he tries to come back following thoracic outlet surgery that has sapped his velocity and hindered his command and movement.
Pitching coach Dan Warthen estimates Harvey’s velocity should return full time in May. That he hit the radar gun at 96 tops is a very good sign.
However, we can’t say certainly he is back. He remains a work in progress. Don’t forget, before he broke down last summer Harvey had trouble getting out of the fifth and sixth innings. It was as if he hit a wall. Harvey gave up three runs on seven hits in his 4.1 innings, which, by definition, is not a quality start. That he reached that far for the first time is a positive, but Harvey would be the first to say he wouldn’t be satisfied with that in the regular season.
However, 74 pitches are way too many for not getting out the fifth. It signifies hitters are fouling off a lot of pitches, meaning he wasn’t able to put them away.
“Overall, I’m excited, and I made a lot of good pitches; unfortunately, in the last inning I didn’t,” Harvey told reporters.
Catcher Kevin Plawecki said Harvey’s command drifted in the fifth inning.
“Other than that last inning, I thought he hit his locations good,” Plawecki said. “[The fastball] was coming in real good, but more importantly, his location was what [he] wanted to see. That’s ultimately what it’s about — you can throw as hard as you want, but if you aren’t spotting anything, it really doesn’t matter.”
Harvey will get two more starts and said he needs to build up his arm strength, improve his command and refine his mechanics. That’s a lot of work to do for two more starts.
As of now, I’m still inclined to leave him back for now, but hopeful he’ll turn it around.