Matt Harvey starts Friday night against the Braves with hopes of finding his footing. Through three starts, he’s 0-3 with a 5.71 ERA. He has yet to flash the electric stuff that has defined his dominance as a pitcher.
Two days later, the Mets will welcome back righthander Jacob deGrom.
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By then, it will have been 15 days since his only start, a concession to his sore lat and the complications endured soon after the birth of his son. But even before his hiatus, deGrom, like Harvey, hadn’t looked like himself. His trademark velocity has yet to appear.
Nevertheless, general manager Sandy Alderson said he doesn’t make much of the fact that two-fifths of the Mets’ much-hyped starting rotation has stumbled out of the starting blocks.
“It is probably the cost of doing business,” Alderson said. “If you get to the postseason the year before, there’s certain things, certain baggage that goes along with that. We’ve experienced some of it. I think it’s somewhat inescapable.”
Including heavy workloads during the Mets’ run to the World Series, both Harvey and deGrom set career highs with 216 innings pitched last season. Neither had ever broken the 200-inning barrier previously.
Though he stopped short of attributing their recent issues to last year’s usage, Alderson acknowledged the potential for a connection.
“It doesn’t mean that it’s a permanent condition,” he said. “I don’t think it is.”
Of course, the plight of Harvey and deGrom had mimicked that of the Mets as a whole. Despite heady expectations, the club went 2-5 to start the season, including a four-game losing streak that marred the first homestand of the year.
The lineup proved to be the primary culprit. Alderson wondered if some of it had been fallout from the team’s approach in spring training, which was to ease regulars into action, especially after the added strain of a postseason run.
The Mets generally were conservative in camp with their young arms and veteran players such as David Wright, whose playing time was curtailed early on. In Wright’s case, it was a concession to his spinal stenosis, an issue that the Mets will continue to manage all season long.
“I think it was all for the right reasons,” Alderson said of the Mets’ approach to camp. “But at the same time, it probably had an impact on the second half of spring training and the first week or so of the season.”
Indeed, the Mets’ 2-5 start followed lackluster results in Grapefruit League action, which included a winless stretch of 14 games.
But things have changed since a controversial 2-1 victory over the Marlins to end the season’s first homestand. Manager Terry Collins invited criticism in that game for using closer Jeurys Familia for a five-out save at a time when most teams are trying to protect their arms.
Nevertheless, the victory was the first of five in the Mets’ next six games, a stretch that has provided a steadying effect.
“We always rationalize outcomes, so did it have anything to do with it? Might it have? Possibly,” Alderson said. “It might have been ‘geez, it was the last day of the homestand and we got out of town.’ Maybe a little bit of a change of scenery may have been a factor. That game may have been a factor. I happen to agree with Terry that it was an important game to win.”
Whatever the reason, Alderson said he is “very pleased” that the Mets seemingly have steadied themselves, perhaps offering some hope that Harvey and deGrom eventually will follow suit.
Even after a 5-4 loss to the Phillies in 11 innings on Wednesday night, the Mets enter the final leg of their nine-game road trip in Atlanta at 7-7, winners of five of their last seven games. And just as they did at Citizens Bank Park, the Mets’ suddenly surging offense will encounter more friendly confines at hitter-friendly Turner Field.
Said Alderson: “We’ve seen examples of where things have started to kick in.”