Matt Harvey said the last thing he wants to talk about at this stage is limitations on his pitching, but there the questions were again Friday as the Mets returned to Citi Field in advance of Game 1 of the NLCS.

"I think everybody's kind of had enough talk and discussion about that whole ordeal," he said. "I'll be the last person to ever bring that one up again."

So as they have in recent weeks, whenever the subject turned to whether his surgically repaired right elbow will factor into how he is used, the principals quickly squelched it.

Asked if he plans to pitch Harvey, who will start Game 1 Saturday night, more than once in the series, manager Terry Collins quickly answered, "Absolutely."

Shortly thereafter, Harvey was asked if he would like to get more than one crack at the Cubs if needed.

"Absolutely," he said. "Going into a seven-game series and having the opportunity to line up for two games, I couldn't be happier and more ready for it."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

If either team sweeps, that will not be necessary. But Game 5 in Chicago on Thursday would give Harvey four days' rest, and he will be good to go.

"Physically, I think he's fine, and I think right now mentally I think he's fine," Collins said. "Obviously, what he went through in the last month has been difficult for him because deep inside, this guy is a tremendous competitor, and he loves to be in the big games."

Collins said that when Harvey volunteered to relieve in Game 5 of the Division Series if needed, he was told that was unlikely to happen but that he was penciled in for Game 1 of the NLCS if the Mets made it.

"Big smile on his face, and he said, 'OK, I'll be ready,' " Collins said.

Harvey said it was important to him to let Collins know he could go in NLDS Game 5 Thursday night even after having pitched Monday night in Game 3.

Mets videos

"I went off how my body felt, how my arm felt those two days off, and things started feeling great," he said. "I gave my two cents and said I was feeling good and wanted to be available and help the team any chance I could."

General manager Sandy Alderson said that Harvey's ability to weather the controversy that erupted in September over whether he would exceed 180 innings this season probably left him "a much better pitcher and person."

"I can understand a certain reservation on his part as he got closer to what some people felt was a large number," Alderson said. "He got through that, and I think he has confidence now in his physical capacity, which is important for his mental approach."

Harvey pitched 189 1/3 innings in the regular season, then went five against the Dodgers in the NLDS, allowing three runs (two earned). He was less than thrilled with that performance, even though he was credited with the win in the Mets' 13-7 victory.

The best thing about pitching Game 1, Harvey said, is that he now has returned to a normal routine after finding it difficult to get into a rhythm in the face of long layoffs down the stretch of the regular season.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Starting Game 1 at home will be the high point to date of his comeback from surgery.

"Going through that whole process of Tommy John [surgery]," he said, "not being able to play, not being able to be with the guys and being here now, getting the ball tomorrow, has kind of made that process all that much easier."