R.A. Dickey has left for Toronto, leaving a major opening in the Mets' starting rotation. Is Matt Harvey, 23, confident enough to believe he not only can land a spot at the top of the rotation but assume the role of ace?

Eventually, yes.

"I'm here to win," Harvey said Monday at Citi Field, where the righthander spent 45 minutes throwing long-toss on the warning track and participating in a session in the indoor batting cage. "I don't make those decisions on who's the ace, who's not the ace. That's where I want to be, that's my determination. In the long run, that's where I want to be.

"Every time I take the mound, I don't want to lose. I don't think I'm going to lose at all. I take the mound fighting for every single pitch. I take anger to the mound, I take a lot of aggression. That's the fight that I have to win.''

Harvey will enter spring training next month with the equity of a short but successful debut last season. After being called up from Triple-A in July, he made 10 starts and went 3-5 with 70 strikeouts and a 2.73 ERA in 591/3 innings.

It doesn't appear the Connecticut-raised Harvey, who grew up idolizing Derek Jeter, has to worry about making the team.

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"Nothing's guaranteed, I don't have a guaranteed contract,'' he said, "but it's nice to know that I do have a little bit of leeway and time to get prepared for the season, rather than last year really fighting for a job I knew I probably couldn't have. Whereas this year it's more of a possibility.''

More like a probability. At the moment, the rotation has nominal ace Johan Santana, then Jon Niese and Dillon Gee. Santana remains something of a question mark regarding his health. Gee is coming off surgery and Niese can be inconsistent. It's not hard to envision Harvey as the No. 2 starter, and even No. 1 if Santana falters.

Harvey hopes he will not be subject to an innings limit, as he was last season, when he was shut down Sept. 20. "I wasn't happy,'' he said. "I'm the kind of guy when I'm on the mound and when I'm going, I want to go. I understood their thoughts and their path and where they wanted to be. But I worked so hard to get here. For them to take the ball away from me and say, 'You can't pitch here anymore for the next couple of outings,' it was kind of a sad note.''

Harvey hasn't been told if the same will happen this season. "That's their call,'' he said. "If they decide that's enough, I'm always going to fight it. I'm always going to try and go out there.''