Mar 06

Harvey Gets The Ball

While it is cold and snowy in New York, but today marks the real start of baseball season because Matt Harvey will make his first appearance in a game since Aug. 24, 2013.

He walked off that game against Detroit with pain in is right elbow that two months later required Tommy John surgery. By coincidence, he’s facing the Tigers again Friday.

HARVEY: All eyes on him today. (AP)

HARVEY: All eyes on him today. (AP)

Harvey blew a lot of smoke leading up to this start, telling reporters: “I’m looking at it as getting ready for a season. I’m not really putting any extra pressure on that there isn’t anyway. I’m looking at it as getting work done and preparing for a season like nothing has ever happened.’’

LOL. That’s rich. A quick show of hands please. How many actually believe that? Thought so …

Harvey isn’t fooling anybody. He literally begged the Mets to pitch last season, but GM Sandy Alderson held the course, which was the right thing to do.

Harvey is scheduled to throw 35 pitches over two innings – 40 tops – and it wouldn’t be natural if the adrenalin weren’t flowing full course. He’s as anxious as anybody to find out about his elbow.

Even pitching coach Dan Warthen anticipates Harvey’s competitive nature – which makes him a special prospect – to surface. It’s unavoidable, he said: “There’s no way you’re ever going to dial Matt down. It’s competition. He’s going to do everything he can to get that person out. So he’s not going to dial it down.’’

While the Mets have been pointing to Harvey’s return as the driving force for their drive to the playoffs, let’s be sure about one thing, and that is he is still a prospect with only 36 career starts, 178.1 innings and just 12 victories.

In the grand scheme of things, that’s not even one full season.

But, there’s a lot of pressure and angst tied into this start.

It’s only natural.

 

Feb 26

Mets Matters: Duda Out Longer Than Expected; Pitching Updates

He’s a Met and it’s an injury, so you know this isn’t the best news. Initially it was a strained oblique muscle and Lucas Duda wouldn’t be able to swing the bat for two or three days. The injury was subsequently re-diagnosed to be a strained left intercostal muscle and will be out for at least a week.

Reportedly, Duda has been dealing with the injury for a couple of weeks.

mets-matters logoHARVEY TO THROW FRIDAY: This is what we’ve been waiting for since he last pitched in August of 2013. Matt Harvey will throw to hitters for the first time Friday. Presuming he does well, he’ll make an exhibition start, March 6, against Detroit at Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie.

PARNELL THROWS: Reliever Bobby Parnell threw to hitters Thursday. The batters stood in the box without swinging. Parnell told reporters: “It felt good to see some hitters in the box. It was a big step.’’

Parnell, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, will open the season on the disabled list.

EARLY SPRING ROTATION SET: Manager Terry Collins named his early exhibition rotation:

Dillon Gee and Jon Velasquez, (March 4); Bartolo Colon and Gabriel Ynoa, (March 5); Harvey and Noah Syndergaard, (March 6); Jacob deGrom, Matt Bowman, Steven Matz and Rafael Montero, (March 7 split squad game).

ON DECK: I will preview Harvey’s throw day tomorrow morning.

Feb 25

Mets Matters: Syndergaard Motivated

I really like what Noah Syndergaard told reporters in Port St. Lucie about his reaction to not being called up at the end of last season.

Realistically, it wasn’t going to happen as to protect his Super Two status.

mets-matters logoAfter getting the call from GM Sandy Alderson, Syndergaard refused to sulk, but instead used it a source of motivation.

“It was kind of heartbreaking,” Syndergaard told ESPN. “I went home, let things relax a little bit, and then got back in my workout program and just enjoyed time in the offseason.

“But it was disappointing. To be in the big leagues has been my dream ever since I was a little kid. … I use it as a little extra motivation, because I don’t want to hear that phone call again.’’

Syndergaard is expected to open the season at Triple-A Las Vegas and join the Mets in June.

Syndergaard, 22, needs to develop a secondary pitch because scouts say he relies too much on his outstanding fastball. Normally, pitchers move up to the next level when they begin dominating the competition, something he did not do evidenced by his 2014 Vegas numbers: 9-7, 4.60 ERA and 1.481 WHIP in 26 starts.

By his own admission, Syndergaard said he wasn’t ready.

“Being in Triple-A, you’ve got guys who have been in the big leagues for a number of seasons. So they can hit a fastball,’’ Syndergaard said. “Hitting is timing, and pitching is throwing off timing. If you throw three fastballs on the heart of the plate, they’re going to time one up.’’

Nobody knows how good Syndergaard will be, but he has the right idea.

HARVEY TO THROW FRIDAY: Matt Harvey’s come back from Tommy John surgery will take another step Friday when he throws to hitters for the first time.

The plan is to take batting practice, but there’s even the chance the hitters won’t even swing, but to stand at the plate to re-acclimate him to having a batter in the box.

DUDA UPDATE: Lucas Duda’s side injury has been changed from a strained oblique to a intercostal muscle. He’s not expected to resume swinging until Friday.

ON DECK TOMORROW: Among other things, I’ll project the Mets’ Opening Day roster.

Feb 23

Here’s A Thought Why Mets Won’t Announce Set Plan For Harvey

Unquestionably, the primary focus for the Mets this spring training will be on Matt Harvey. GM Sandy Alderson said there would not be severe restrictions on Harvey, who remains on schedule and is to throw to hitters by the end of the week.

That’s encouraging, but what is puzzling is wondering if the Mets even have a concrete plan for Harvey’s first year following Tommy John surgery. There’s supposed to be an innings cap, but so far there’s no announced number, with Alderson saying he didn’t want this to become an issue over the next eight months.

HARVEY: Why won't they announce plan? (Getty)

HARVEY: Why won’t they announce plan? (Getty)

Memo to Alderson: Announced number or not, Harvey’s workload will always be an issue. Not knowing drives the media crazy and encourages it to bombard Alderson, Harvey and Terry Collins with the same questions before and after every start.

How can Alderson be that naïve about the New York press to think the issue will go away, especially as the season wears down and there is a prospect of a postseason?

First, it was thought Harvey would not pitch in the six games the Mets have on the road to open the season, but start the home opener. Now, Collins says he’ll start in the season’s first five games. How much do you want to bet he starts Opening Day and the home opener?

Alderson says the Mets have “an idea,’’ of Harvey’s limit, but not a definitive number. Harvey threw out 200, but not 215 or 220.

Alderson said Harvey will start in the postseason, but what does that mean toward the innings total?

Let’s assume the Mets get in as a wild card and run the table. That’s a potential six or seven starts; that’s at least another 40 innings. And, if they are in a race there’s no way they’ll cut him short in a game.

How does that compute? Do the Mets think 170 innings and keep adding on until their season is done? Don’t think for a second if the Mets reach the playoffs they would consider limiting him.

But, all innings count.

The ideal way is to map out a schedule that utilizes skipping one start a month, which is a possible savings of 42 innings, figuring seven innings is the magic number for a start. This can easily be done when scheduled off days are considered. And, it would not impact the rest of the rotation.

Then, Collins can pull Harvey depending on how he’s pitching that day and the tenor of the game. Those are bonus saved innings. I would hope on days Harvey doesn’t have it he’ll have a short leash.

That seems the easiest way, but the Mets won’t commit to this format. Instead, they floated the idea of sometimes earmarking a start for five innings. That’s a terrible idea because what if Harvey is throwing a gem? What if they pull him and the bullpen gives it up? That’s a backlash Collins doesn’t want to face.

This way also puts undue pressure on the team if they think they’ll have Harvey for five innings. A team must go into a game believing the starter will be with them. Plus, you would be putting the bullpen in the situation of working four innings that night. But, what if they were overused in an extra-innings game the night before? What if the next game’s starter is shelled? All of a sudden the bullpen is taxed.

The Mets’ reluctance to carve out a concrete plan for Harvey this year has nothing to do with trying to alleviate a distraction. At least not the one they think.

I believe their caution is they don’t want to risk of aggravating or annoying their temperamental pitcher, who has already in his young career has shown a willingness, if not eagerness, to spar with management.

They don’t want Harvey to become angry and create a different distraction. What they don’t understand it is better to face this now rather than have this become a lingering issue.

And, you know it will.

Feb 09

Harvey Arrives In Camp; Says All The Right Things

Matt Harvey didn’t want to see Port St. Lucie last summer during his rehab program, but now he couldn’t be happier to see the place … and answer all those questions.

Harvey reported to spring training ten days ahead of the Mets’ reporting date and was clearly anxious to put last year behind him, telling reporters today he’s excited and on schedule.

HARVEY: See you in the spring. (MLB)

HARVEY: See you in the spring. (MLB)

“I’m healthy. I’m right where I need to be, and I’m excited about getting started,’’ Harvey said this afternoon. “The big test will be once hitters get in there and facing them. I’ve been throwing [bullpen sessions], and everything is right where I want it to be. It’s an exciting spring training for me.’’

Last year, Harvey wanted to rehab in New York and not Florida, and also pushed the Mets at every turn about wanting to pitch at the end of the 2014 season.

He expressed no regrets today about how he was handled.

“Looking back on it, I think everybody made the right decision,’’ Harvey said. “I’m in a good place right now.’’

Call it an olive branch. It’s the first day and everybody is optimistic and in a good mood. No need for him to dredge up bad feelings. However, there are details to be ironed out and we’ll eventually see how harmonious things are between Harvey and the Mets.

GM Sandy Alderson is on record as saying Harvey will work with a to-be-determined innings ceiling. As of now, it appears he won’t be the Opening Day starter, but could start the home opener. That’s one missed start, but only a beginning. Will the Mets place him on the disabled list at midseason? Will they limit him to seven innings each start? Will they skip him once a month? Will he even be ready to start the season?

It would be great to have all these answers now, and hopefully this will be determined – and Harvey on board with everything – before the Mets break camp.

As for now, Harvey is saying all the right things.

“My goal is to be ready for Opening Day, regardless of what is decided,’’ Harvey said. “We haven’t really discussed anything. I don’t think anything’s set in stone.’’

The concept of an innings limit became popular in 2012 when Washington shut down Stephen Strasburg in September in his first season following Tommy John surgery and subsequently missed the playoffs. Now, it is in vogue.

Of course, right now it is premature to suggest the playoffs are even in the cards for the Mets, but this much is for certain, there will be no October for them if Harvey is re-injured.