LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — If you were Matt Harvey, would you want to talk about last year?
Harvey certainly didn’t on Wednesday after taking the first step toward putting his rough 2017 in the rearview mirror with an impressive two-inning outing in his first spring training start of 2018.
The onetime Dark Knight threw free and easy against the Braves at Champion Stadium. He touched 96 miles per hour with his fastball and consistently lived in the 93-to-95 range. Of his 38 pitches, 26 were strikes. Harvey allowed one run, two hits and one walk and had two strikeouts.
Last year, Harvey suffered through an injury-plagued season in which he went 5-7 with a 6.70 ERA. So while he was happy to say how good he felt on Wednesday, he was in no mood to compare it to how he felt in 2017.
“I’m not looking at stuff from last year,” he said. “It’s a new year. I’m healthy and I’m ready to go. It was a good outing. Good start.”
Harvey repeated the same thought another time or two, even when he was asked if he feels good about some mechanical adjustments he has made to correct a flaw from . . . whisper it . . . last year.
“Completely new year,” he said. “I’m not talking about last year. I’m not comparing anything to last year or years before. Mechanics were good today and I’m excited about the outing.”
So was his manager, Mickey Callaway, who was not with the Mets last year and is looking at Harvey with fresh eyes.
“I’m sure that gives him something to build off,” Callaway said. “You throw 96 and you’re able to command the ball and get ahead, you’re probably going to have success, especially when you have the life he had on the ball . . . The slider was really good. Strike one was good. He’s got his feel back.”
The first inning was the better of the two. Harvey struck out Ronald Acuna Jr. looking on a 94-mph fastball before giving up a single to Danny Santana off the glove of first baseman Peter Alonso. Harvey then dialed it up against Freddie Freeman, who wears out the Mets but is just a .192 hitter against Harvey.
Four fastballs, none below 94, and Freeman struck out on the last one. As a bonus, catcher Jose Lobaton picked Santana off first base on Harvey’s 12th and final pitch of the inning.
“We’ve gotten to be good friends over the years,” Harvey said of Freeman. “It’s always nice to be on the positive end of facing him. It was fun.”
Said Callaway: “I think that hitters tell you a lot. He had that extra gear, that extra life with his fastball. You get Freddie Freeman swinging at balls late, you know you’re doing something right. Not only were his pitches really good, but he had that life to his fastball.”
The Braves scored a run in the second on a walk to Tyler Flowers, single by Preston Tucker and run-scoring double play by Dansby Swanson. Harvey got Austin Riley to fly to center to end his day.
“The first inning was great,” Harvey said. “The second inning, got behind a couple of guys, but was able to get the double play and get the last guy out. It was definitely positive. It was a good start . . . Good to get the first one out of the way, of course. Get things going. You start with two innings and then see where it goes from there, but I was definitely happy with the outing and looking forward to continuing more in spring.”
This spring. 2018.