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Don’t expect to see the old Dark Knight again

Matt Harvey of the Mets walks to the

Matt Harvey of the Mets walks to the dugout against the Cubs at Citi Field on June 14, 2017. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The complex, often contentious relationship between Matt Harvey and the Mets already feels like it should be referred to in the past tense. Harvey still has another season left at Citi Field before free agency, but under the best-case scenario, for both parties, he was supposed to be gone before then.

That can’t happen now. We’ve known that for a while, ever since Harvey needed to go back on the disabled list in mid-June because of the stress injury to his scapula bone, which was fallout from the surgery to correct his thoracic outlet syndrome of the previous year.

So to watch Harvey finally climb the Citi mound, hours before Tuesday night’s game against the Rangers, just seemed like another mile marker toward his Flushing exit, rather than a flicker of optimism for whatever lies ahead. Truth is, the pitcher we once knew as Matt Harvey hasn’t been around for a long while, almost two calendar years, and the odds against him showing up again have multiplied during that period.

The Mets badly needed a bounce-back season from Harvey, not only to help them reach their October goals, but also to make it possible to trade him during the winter that followed. Instead, here’s what Harvey has done since that 2015 World Series run: a total of 30 starts, 163 innings, an 8-13 record, 5.02 ERA, a 1.460 WHIP and a 7.2 K/9 ratio.

Factor in his thoracic outlet surgery, a complicated procedure that involved removing a rib as well as re-arranging nerves in the shoulder area, and Harvey is trying to resurrect his career — again — in uncharted waters. Whether or not Harvey makes another start this season doesn’t matter much in the big picture. The Mets have little choice but to bring him back, for around $6 million-plus in his final arbitration year, and see if they can squeeze out whatever’s left in the toothpaste tube, then let him go.

Harvey was encouraged by Tuesday’s 25-pitch BP session, with Brandon Nimmo standing in the box, and it was considered a positive step in the uncertain timetable for his return. But trying to gauge how he’ll hold up during this process, or saying he’s truly clear of any further TOS-related issues, is difficult to do.

“It’s kind of impossible to tell,” Harvey said. “But the size and strength of my shoulder has gotten to the point where they’re happy with it.”

Overall, Harvey appears to be in great shape. He’s so lean, in fact, that it was tough to recognize him on the mound until he began his familiar delivery. Harvey said he’s dropped approximately 15 pounds, and Terry Collins declared him a model citizen, evidently reformed after the embarrassing AWOL incident from early May.

Better late than never, and there still is something to be salvaged here. If the Mets are going to be stuck with Harvey, it might as well be this version. As far as we know, he’s led a mostly drama-free existence since landing on the DL, and he’s put the work in. The only thing to worry about now is rushing to make a few starts for the Mets before the season wraps up.

Let’s face it. The Mets’ handling of Harvey’s health problems over the years has not been ideal. We’ve all been down this road before. Regardless of how many starts Harvey is able to make down the stretch — if any — it’s not going to change his lame-duck status going into 2018. But if Harvey feels as good as he insists he does, the Mets probably will find a way to get him on the mound again this season.

“He’ll push it, so I think you’ll see him back,” Collins said. “I just don’t know when.”

Collins sounded mostly ambivalent either way. There used to be a time when Harvey’s every movement was dissected, every pitch analyzed. His turn in the rotation achieved the elite status of being a must-see event known as Harvey Day.

But those days are over. Unfortunately, there weren’t enough of them for either Harvey or the Mets to maximize the opportunity. Now they just have to make the most of their waning time together, each one saddled with the disappointment of not getting what they wanted in the end.

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