PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — For the first time in his career, Matt Harvey will be the Mets’ Opening Day starter. The righthander will begin this season the way he ended the last — facing the Kansas City Royals.
“It means a lot,” said Harvey, who joins the likes of Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden as Mets Opening Day starters. “That kind of makes the whole process a little surreal, I think. Going from missing a whole year to kind of having to re-establish myself and kind of getting back to where I needed to be, and now having the honor of leading us off, I couldn’t be more proud or happy of the hard work.”
Harvey, who will celebrate his 27th birthday later this month, roared back from Tommy John surgery. Last season, his first since the procedure, he went 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA in the regular season and 2-0 with a 3.04 ERA in four postseason starts.
By season’s end, Harvey pushed his workload past 200 innings for the first time in his career. He was named the NL’s Comeback Player of the Year.
“We just like the way he’s thrown, the way he finished last year, the way he’s throwing the ball right now,” Mets manager Terry Collins said Thursday. “Comeback Player of the Year, there’s a lot of things that led up to it.”
The Mets long ago made the decision to give Harvey the Opening Day start. But Collins held off on an official announcement until Thursday, when he gathered the starting rotation in his office.
“Looking around this corner, I think obviously Terry could have announced anybody,” said Harvey, who was tipped off a few days earlier. “So for me getting the nod, it’s a huge honor. It’s all about how we start, how we come out, and I definitely feel a year after surgery, I’m definitely 100 percent. I’m happy about the honor and definitely ready for the battle.”
Jacob deGrom also was considered for the start, though his availability is in question with his wife expecting their first child.
“Flip a coin,” captain David Wright said. “You could go with anybody and there would be no argument. I think Matt as far as the young guys go certainly deserved it and kind of made him one of the leaders of that staff. Although he’s relatively young, his work ethic, the results, his success . . . you can’t make a wrong decision there, but I think it’s well deserved.”
Bartolo Colon started on Opening Day last season and got the win against the Nationals.
Collins said the Mets still are figuring out the first starts for the rest of the rotation, a challenge given the unusual schedule of the season’s opening week. The Mets will play only once in the four days after the opener.
The Mets might piggyback deGrom and lefty Steven Matz in the second game of the season in Kansas City in an effort to keep the pitchers sharp despite the string of off days. But the Mets’ plan for the opener is firm.
In a Sunday night game that will be aired on ESPN, the Mets will begin the season on April 3 at Kansas City in a World Series rematch. It was against the Royals, in Game 5 of the World Series, that Harvey talked Collins into letting him begin the ninth with a 2-0 lead. The Royals tied the score and won in extra innings to end the Series.
“It’s kind of interesting how the schedule worked out with that,” Harvey said. “It’s going to be a fun time. We’re all excited. We’re all getting to a good place in camp where everything’s kind of coming together. As a whole, I think we’re excited for that challenge. It’s going to be a great atmosphere, obviously, going to Kansas City. Playing against them, it’s going to bring back a lot of memories and it’s also going to bring back a lot of fire.”
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