On Friday, Matt Harvey will return to the mound. To the one place he has total control. The one place where he can start to overcome the personal and professional missteps that have plagued him in the last week.
Harvey will climb up the hill at Miller Park in the bottom of the first inning and fire away at the Milwaukee Brewers. It’s a much more comfortable place for him than the interview room podium at Citi Field, where Harvey sat on Tuesday to apologize for missing work on Saturday.
The Mets suspended Harvey for three days and then welcomed him back on Tuesday with open arms — no one more so than Terry Collins. The manager got emotional when talking about his former ace on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, after the Mets finished a 4-2 homestand with a disappointing 6-5 loss to the Giants, Collins spoke in more measured tones about the challenge facing Harvey on Friday. After all the tumult, the pitcher’s mound may be the best place for Harvey to show his teammates he’s truly ready to make baseball his No. 1 priority again.
Harvey began his road back with a bullpen session at Citi Field. According to Collins, Harvey is physically ready to resume his season.
“It’s a big hurdle for him on Friday,” Collins said. “The bullpen was fine. His arm’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with him physically. It was good to see him out there. Today he was the same Matt Harvey we’ve seen. Upbeat and ready to go and excited for Friday. I’m excited to see him pitch because I think certainly he’s got some challenges ahead of him and this guy’s always rose up when the challenges were there, so I’m anxious to see him.”
Harvey is 2-2 with a 5.14 ERA in six starts. Things were actually going pretty well before his last two outings. Harvey had a 2.84 ERA heading into his April 27 start against the Braves. He faced Atlanta again on May 2.
In those two starts, Harvey allowed 12 runs in 9 2⁄3 innings. That’ll get the old ERA jumping every time.
If not for his off-the-field drama, Harvey would just be a 28-year-old coming off his second major arm surgery. He is still recovering from the thoracic outlet surgery he had in July, which by itself is a tough thing for a pitcher to overcome.
“Again, there’s a process,” Collins said. “When you’re coming off surgery like him and you’re trying to relocate the release points because last year the feeling in your fingers wasn’t there . . . the last start even though his command wasn’t real good, the velocity came up. So there’s the next step. Now it’s a matter of commanding all his stuff and certainly putting it all together, which I think may not happen overnight. It may take a little while.
“We’ve done some research where a lot of guys with that type of surgery, it takes 10 months to come back. Matt, as he always has, has pushed the envelope and been back before people expected. So we’re hoping that he gradually gets the command of his secondary pitches and gets back to where he was before surgery.”