PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — The Mets got a double dose of good pitching news Friday. Matt Harvey bounced back from a poor first outing to throw three solid innings against the Astros and Zack Wheeler threw two innings against the Braves in his first start after missing two seasons because of Tommy John surgery.
Harvey had better stuff, better velocity and said he felt better despite again pitching through a stiff neck. Wheeler was just thrilled to get on a mound and off again without suffering any setbacks.
Along with Jacob deGrom’s dominant four-inning outing against the Tigers on Thursday, the Mets all of a sudden can feel more confident about three of their prospective starters, all of whom are coming back from surgeries.
“It’s better,” Harvey said. “Definitely an improvement from the first one. It’s just a matter of time before things click, mechanics click, timing clicks, but I think overall it was definitely a plus and definitely much better than the first one.”
Harvey’s first one Sunday was a stinker. He allowed four runs in 1 2⁄3 innings to the Cardinals and was slowed by a stiff neck.
On Friday, he gave up one run and two hits, walking one and striking out two in the Mets’ 7-6 loss. The run came on a home run to right by light-hitting infielder Reid Brignac.
Of his neck, Harvey said it still bothered him “a little bit. Still just tight . . . It’s definitely I’d say 90 percent better than it was before.”
The radar gun display at First Data Field was not working, but it was obvious that Harvey had much better velocity than in his first start. He said it was more than that, though.
“Just use of pitches, getting out there, getting comfortable facing another team,” he said. “I threw some good sliders, I threw some good changeups. Obviously the fastball was up in the zone a little bit early, but then later in the outing, it was starting to come back down.”
Manager Terry Collins breathed a sigh of relief that his one-time ace took a step forward. “I liked a lot [that] I saw,” he said. “I liked the changeup, I liked he had some life on his fastball. He’s getting his strength back. We need to get the release point a little bit down so he gets his command back.”
As for Wheeler, he gave up one run and two hits with one walk and one strikeout in the Mets’ 5-2 split-squad loss to the Braves in Lake Buena Vista. The run came on a second-inning home run by Matt Tuiasosopo.
“I was kind of nervous about just getting big-league guys out,” Wheeler said, according to MLB.com. “I didn’t know if I could still do it. It’s been two years. It just felt good to get out there and compete again. As long as I came out of this healthy today, that was my No. 1 goal. I’ve been going through this for two years now, so whatever happened happened. I got a strikeout and gave up a home run. All of that really doesn’t matter right now. I’m just glad I’m healthy right now.”
Notes & quotes: Yoenis Cespedes hit his fourth home run of spring training and second in two days in the home game . . . Addison Reed, who is expected to start the season as the closer, allowed six hits and six runs in two-thirds of an inning against the Astros.