LOS ANGELES — Matt Harvey seeks a future as eventful as low tide at Coney Island after a past that often resembled a ride on the Cyclone.
The first chance to build that future will come quickly.
The former Met, traded to the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday, will make his first start for his new club Friday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Harvey replaces Brandon Finnegan, who was sent to Triple-A Louisville.
“I’ve had a lot of people say that was the best thing,” Harvey said, referring to leaving the Mets, before Thursday night’s Reds-Dodgers game. “I think just pitching is what’s important. Everything feels great and I’m excited for the opportunity.”
That excitement provides a dramatic contrast with the exasperation Harvey experienced amid injuries on the field and controversy off it.
“It’s been kind of a roller coaster, I’d say, battling from injuries and trying to get back to where I wanted to be and where I knew I could be,” he said. “I wasn’t able to do that and I pretty much felt like I let the team down. It was really tough mentally at times.
“I felt like I was getting much closer and closer to where I wanted to be. I told the Mets that each time I was going out. Obviously, the numbers didn’t show that.”
As his tenure with the Mets was drawing to a close, Harvey acknowledged increasing pressure to perform and anxiety about his future.
“When you want to help a winning team, a good team, you put a lot of pressure on that,” he said “I think I might have over-pressured myself and I wasn’t quite able to enjoy the game and let everything fall into place. There were some pretty negative thoughts going through my head about where my career was.”
The breaking point came last week when the National League’s starting pitcher for the 2013 All-Star Game refused to be demoted from the bullpen to the minor leagues.
“There were a lot of discussions with my family and with Boras Corporation,” Harvey said in reference to agent Scott Boras. “We felt it was best to start in the big leagues and get people out up here.
“You can go down and work on stuff in whatever league it is, but the ultimate goal is to get people out here. The only way to do that is to stay here and get on to a five-man rotation and really do everything you can to get to where you want to be.”
Harvey will get that chance Friday night in his first start since April 19, when he suffered a 12-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves. The righthander had been working out on his own at Boras’ complex in Newport Beach, California, 50 miles from Dodger Stadium.
“He’s thrown a lot of extended bullpens when he’s been away from the Mets but he hasn’t been in game competition for a while,” Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. “Based on what he’s been doing recently, it’ll kind of create itself, as far as how far he goes.
“He might go an inning or two, he might go four, I don’t know. It’ll be limited, though.”
The start will provide an opportunity for the Reds’ newest acquisition to exhale mentally after years of stress.
“There’s been a lot of rough times in the last couple of weeks, and actually, in the last couple of years,” Harvey said. “It’s created a lot of mental toughness. It’s easy to just give up and not work at your craft. But I think fighting through that and throwing the ball the way I have in bullpens, it’s in there. I just need to relax and let it happen.”