KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Matt Harvey calls it an “out-of-body experience,” though he’s not quite sure that’s exactly right either. Regardless of the precise sensation, the point he’s trying to make is clear.
There are times when he takes the mound for the Mets and something happens to him. He can’t explain it. But there is no doubt that he senses it.
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For example, in the World Series, he swears that as he jogged from the mound to the dugout late in games, he thought he was floating. It happened in 2013, when he barely could make his warmup tosses before the All-Star Game at Citi Field.
Speaking before he imposed his recent media boycott, Harvey said, “You almost can’t feel the ground after each step, you’re so jacked up.”
Now Harvey will take the mound in Sunday night’s season opener against the Royals. Opening Night is rife with ceremony, and that will be particularly true at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals will make a public display of their five-game triumph over the Mets in the World Series. But few pitchers are better equipped to handle the spotlight than Harvey, who feeds off the kind of supercharged energy that is sure to pour in from the stands.
“There are just guys that rise to the occasion. There’s guys when they’re faced in a tough spot, they pick it up, they pick up their game,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “And he’s one of those guys.”
So many pitchers regard their emotions as a nuisance, a hurdle that must be cleared, a fire that must be walled off so the flames are hardly ever visible.
Jacob deGrom surprised himself when after a bad start once, his emotions pushed him to swipe at a water cooler with his pitching hand. Bartolo Colon might show more intensity on strolls through the park than he does between pitches in a game.
Harvey, however, is far more transparent. His emotions begin churning well before first pitch.
“On start days, before I go out there, I’m probably more talkative and active than any other day because I’m excited,” said Harvey, who began his ill-fated ninth inning in Game 5 of the World Series with a sprint from the dugout to the mound.
Even off the field, there is precious little deciphering required to gauge where he stands. Stung by headlines that mocked his bladder condition, he began his media boycott.
But before that occurred, Harvey admitted there are certain times when he’d rather approach the game with stoicism like deGrom and calm like Colon. Not always, though.
“It’s interesting to see how Bartolo does it,” Harvey said. “He tosses the ball around. I’ve gone back and watched video of my games and it’s totally the opposite. But it’s good to learn from. You learn from that how in different situations it’d be good to be a little more like Bartolo . . . or maybe turn things up.”
Full blast is Harvey’s default setting. Batterymate Travis d’Arnaud knows better than to change it. The catcher might jog to the mound to give his pitcher a reminder of the situation. Sometimes he’ll take the trip just to provide a breather.
But it’s never to instill calm.
“No,” d’Arnaud said. “I feel like when he gets amped up, that helps him and makes him zone in even more.”
Harvey is entering his fourth major-league season, his second since coming back from Tommy John surgery. At 27, he is closer to a veteran than a rookie. He has developed a keener sense of what works for him.
On the mound, it’s channeling raw emotion, even if there are times when it turns him into a jumble of nerves and receptors.
“I’m like, ‘Wow, this is incredible,’ which doesn’t happen often,” Harvey said. “But when it does, it’s a special feeling. I guess your endorphins, or whatever the doctors talk about, your adrenaline, it’s just all firing. It’s a crazy experience.”