Matt Harvey calls split rehab 'a good deal' with Mets

Matt Harvey gives a hug to bullpen catcher Matt Harvey gives a hug to bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello after the two played catch during spring training practice Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Photo Credit: AP / Jeff Roberson

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Matt Harvey earned his first victory of the year Tuesday without throwing a pitch when the Mets agreed to let the injured ace split the next two months of his rehab between New York and Port St. Lucie.

But after some verbal sparring with the team leading up to that decision, Harvey chose to clear the air after yesterday's workout at Tradition Field. In his mind, it would be wrong to characterize what happened as a battle of wills with the front office. Harvey insists there is no lingering resentment between the two sides.

"Certain situations I feel strongly about and I may approach them a little bit differently," Harvey told Newsday. "But I'm all about this team. I'm all about the New York Mets and I'm all about winning. I can preach that until I'm blue in the face."

Ultimately, the Mets and Harvey compromised on a plan that will allow him to rehab in New York during the homestands at Citi Field, but he must return to Florida when the team is on the road.

Starting June 1, when Harvey is scheduled to ramp up his throwing sessions, general manager Sandy Alderson said the pitcher will remain at the spring training complex on more of a full-time basis, with "occasional trips" back to New York.

"I think he's happy with the arrangement, we're happy with the arrangement," said Alderson, who met with Harvey early Tuesdaymorning before the team traveled to play the Nationals. "We think it will work well."

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Despite the peaceful settlement, the Mets initially were fearful that making this adjustment for Harvey would set a bad precedent. In the past, almost without exception, the team's injured players spent the majority of their rehab in Port St. Lucie, whether they were an All-Star or backup.

Mets officials also were concerned about how Harvey's special case would be perceived by his teammates. But the collective bargaining agreement permits a club to keep a rehabbing player at its spring training complex for a maximum of only 20 days without his consent, so in the end, the Mets figured meeting Harvey halfway was the best course of action.

"I think a lot of the riffraff stuff was a little misleading," Harvey said. "We had kind of gone back and forth, but it was never an alarming situation. It wasn't me trying to get my way the whole time and it wasn't them trying to get their way the whole time, which was kind of perceived through the media. We worked out a good deal and I think everybody is happy."

From the day Harvey arrived at spring training this year, the Mets tried to contain him. Coming off Tommy John surgery last October, and likely out for the season, Harvey's locker was moved to the back hallway of the clubhouse and media access to the pitcher was limited.

The Mets should have known better. Even on the disabled list, Harvey's stardom can't be so easily concealed, and he found himself in the middle of an uncomfortable tug-of-war between team officials and the media. Harvey is just the rare player who is always going to be the center of attention.

"I think that comes with wanting to be the best, especially in New York," Harvey said. "I don't see myself as an egotistical person. I just like to win. That's what I'm about."

As for when Harvey might actually help the Mets again on the field, the conservative estimate is Opening Day 2015. But Harvey is thinking much sooner. After tweeting earlier this month that "2014 Harvey Day will happen," he still feels strongly about coming back this season.

"I do, yeah," Harvey said. "As a competitor, if I see a light at the end of the tunnel, a chance of getting on the mound and going back to what I love and winning baseball games, then that's the goal I'm going to strive for. I think if I was to throw in the towel, and say, 'Hey, I'm looking to 2015,' I think you're dealing with the wrong person."

Like this recent negotiation with the Mets over his rehab location, Harvey also knows that he's not calling all the shots. If Harvey does get close to a possible September return, the Mets will have the final say. And they could be less willing to bend on that one.

"I can't write myself in the lineup nor can I get into a doctor's brain and say, 'OK, you're clear to go,' " Harvey said. "But my mind-set as a competitor, as a winner, as a fighter, is to get back out there as soon as possible."

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