The Mets huddled on Friday to begin the daunting task of reassembling Matt Harvey’s shattered confidence. Their options ran the gamut.
Most were traditional, such as dispatching the embattled pitcher to the minors for a head-clearing sabbatical, a person briefed on the situation told Newsday. Others were more radical, such as emptying Harvey’s locker, assembling the belongings into a pile and setting them ablaze.
Some hoped that the gesture might symbolize a much-needed fresh start, and that he could rise from the ashes.
The Mets ultimately chose a laissez-faire approach, one that reflects their insistence that what ails Harvey is not physical but mental. At his own insistence, Harvey will remain in the starting rotation, which means he will pitch against the Nationals next week.
Just as he did in Game 5 of the World Series, Harvey talked his way into keeping the baseball. The Mets can only hope for better results this time around.
“We got as in-depth as you possibly can get,” manager Terry Collins said of the decision before Friday night’s series opener against the Brewers. “We dissected every angle there was. In the end, knowing this guy like we do, he wants to pitch. He wants to fight through it. He isn’t going to run and hide. He wants to get out there. So we’re going to do that.”
The Mets have yet to decide exactly when Harvey will pitch again. His regular turn is on Tuesday, though he could get an extra day’s rest and pitch on Wednesday. Collins also left open the possibility of having Harvey pitch the series opener on Monday, on short rest, because he lasted only 61 pitches in Thursday night’s meltdown.
“In this particular case, we really think he’s got to get back on the horse as fast as we possibly can,” Collins said. “We’ve got to get him back out there. He’s angry about some things. Get him back out there, that’s how we’re going to go about it.”
Harvey, 27, allowed a career-high nine runs (six earned) in a career-low 2 2⁄3 innings on Thursday night. The outing got him booed off the mound.
Even Collins admitted that he was worried about how Harvey might respond the day after, but those fears were quickly erased. Though Harvey arrived at Citi Field on Friday with an ERA that has ballooned to 5.77, he insisted that he remain in the rotation.
For all the talk of Harvey’s inconsistent mechanics, or speculation about last season’s innings load, the Mets have been steadfast in approaching Harvey’s struggles as primarily a crisis of confidence. Some of the Mets’ conversations on Friday focused on finding ways for Harvey to turn the page mentally. That included resorting to a controlled burn.
Mets reliever Bobby Parnell attempted that tactic last season. After a rough stretch, Parnell emptied everything from his locker (aside from his Mets uniform) and set fire to the contents, his way of creating a fresh slate.
Another suggestion involved having Harvey pack up his belongings from the clubhouse only to move right back in, another ploy to reinforce the notion of a new start.
It’s unclear whether Harvey followed through on either tactic.
Meanwhile, Collins stuck to a familiar script, giving Harvey another public vote of confidence with what has become a familiar stump speech. With all the earnestness he could muster, with all the conviction of a true believer, Collins vowed that the Mets will make Harvey great again.
“This summer, it will happen again,” he said, noting how fans chanted his name before the ninth inning of the World Series. “I told him that today. What he heard last November, he will hear that again this summer. But you’ve got to be able to build on what you’re doing right now to get better to hear it. I think he can handle that.”