LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Last year, Matt Harvey’s first spring training start after Tommy John surgery was an event. He lived up to it by pumping 99-mile-per-hour fastballs past the Tigers.
This year, Harvey’s first start was just a guy getting ready for the season. So the fastball was dialed back to a “mere” 96 or 97 as Harvey allowed one run and three hits in three innings in the Mets’ 5-4 loss to the Braves on Tuesday.
Harvey threw 41 pitches, 28 for strikes. He gave up a run in his final inning but otherwise seemed full speed ahead for his second season after surgery.
Harvey struck out one and walked two.
“It’s good to get back and face another team and get in some situations that are tough to do in a live BP,” said Harvey, who twice saw the Braves load the bases. “It’s always good to get back. That means we’re getting closer to the regular season. Body felt great, arm felt great. There’s a couple of things [I] needed to work on, but that’s what spring training’s for.”
Harvey retired the Braves in order in the first on six pitches — all fastballs. Five of them were 96 miles per hour, the other 97. He settled in at the mid-90s in the later innings.
“I think as you get older and get into more spring trainings, you realize how long it is until the season actually starts and also how long into the season that we want to go,” Harvey said. “I think obviously last year starting I was pretty excited to get back in there and let it all out. I think as far as this spring training we all realize that there’s still a lot of time to go and work to be done in order to get where you need to be. Obviously, the end result is pitching in November, so that’s obviously a bunch of months away, so we realize that and we’re just trying to get our work in.”
Starting in the second, Harvey mixed in his breaking pitches, including the slider he hopes to rediscover this spring.
“I threw it quite a bit today,” Harvey said. “I felt like I threw a couple good ones. Just getting good rotation on it and throwing it a lot more and getting used to doing different things with it is something that I’m trying to get used to. It feels right where it needs to be.”
The Braves loaded the bases with one out in the second on an infield hit off Harvey’s glove by Adonis Garcia, a throwing error by third baseman Wilmer Flores on a potential double- play ball, and a walk on a 3-and-2 slider to Nick Swisher.
Harvey got out of the jam when second baseman Dilson Herrera started a double play by making a diving stop of a Daniel Castro hot shot up the middle. Herrera (unnecessarily) flipped the ball with his glove to the feet of Ruben Tejada, who picked it up off the dirt to complete the inning-ending double play.
Harvey threw 18 pitches in the second inning — nine fastballs and nine breaking balls. The last pitch was clocked at 99 on the stadium scoreboard, though that seemed a tad inflated.
Harvey’s lone strikeout was a three-pitch wipeout of No. 9 batter Mallex Smith, who tried to check his swing on a darting breaking ball leading off the third. Smith saw two sliders, striking out on the second one.
“It was pretty filthy. He had a reason to be pleased with it,” Smith said. “It was violent. It started above my waist and ended up in the dirt. He was pretty nasty, I’ll give him that.”
Ender Inciarte and Erick Aybar followed with hard-hit singles and Harvey walked Freddie Freeman to load the bases. Nick Markakis hit a sacrifice fly to right to give Atlanta a 1-0 lead. The inning — and Harvey’s afternoon — ended when Aybar was thrown out attempting to take third base on the sacrifice fly.
“He was very sharp early,” manager Terry Collins said. “Could have had two really easy innings. I’m kind of glad he had to work a little bit because we weren’t going to send him out for four. But he threw the ball great.”
With David Lennon