PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - For the Mets, spring training has been a five-week cautionary tale about the vulnerability of young pitching. Arms often break down, and when they do, the fallout can alter a season.
Matt Harvey once was in that category, a brilliant young talent on the shelf, sidelined by Tommy John surgery and a lengthy rehab. But all he's done in spring training this year is offer convincing evidence of what he's insisted all along.
Surgery no longer lingers in his mind. For Harvey, it's business as usual.
"I've gone into spring like it was normal and I'm on the same workload as everybody else," said Harvey, who will face the Yankees in a Grapefruit League game on Sunday. "So as far as that goes, I don't see how spring would be any different."
Harvey, who is slated to throw 75 pitches against the Yankees, pushed himself to 53 pitches in four innings in his previous outing against the Red Sox. He expects to build upon that total against CC Sabathia and the Yankees, the team he grew up following.
"I think we have three more starts down here," he said. "So with that, everything feels great. The strength is there. Going four innings last time felt great. I felt strong through all four innings. Obviously, the workload's going to increase. So we're right where we need to be."
In the space of eight days, the Mets found out that Josh Edgin and Zack Wheeler needed Tommy John surgery. But on the opposite end of the spectrum, Harvey has entered the homestretch of his comeback.
In three Grapefruit League starts, he has allowed two runs in 82/3 innings, with eight strikeouts and one walk. Scouts and opposing hitters have raved about him, seeing few signs that he hadn't pitched since 2013.
As part of his All-Star season, Harvey made his mark against the Yankees, striking out 10 and allowing one run in eight innings.
Harvey's fastball has been clocked at 99 mph in exhibition games. His curveball has flashed its characteristic bite and his changeup has produced swings and misses. His slider -- the pitch that puts the most strain on his elbow -- has improved with every outing.
"It was fine," Harvey said. "It's something that I wasn't worried about. We have so many starts and we get so many innings that you can refine that stuff. That was just the one pitch that was a little behind, but obviously throwing it in more bullpens and getting a better feel for it throughout spring training is where we're at now."
The only semblance of a speed bump came in Harvey's second appearance, when he allowed two runs and six hits against the Marlins. After the game, he said his body felt sluggish.
"You're going to have days down here where you're going to feel a little more tired than others," Harvey said. "When you're out here working from 7 o'clock in the morning until whenever we leave, you get tired. Certain weeks are easy. Certain weeks you're a little bit tired."
But in his last outing against the Red Sox, Harvey had no such issues.
"That's why spring training's so long," he said. "It takes time to get your body back in shape to get game-ready."
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