DENVER — Matt Harvey composed himself, then stood in front of his locker on Friday night, ready for the latest hail of questions about yet another pedestrian performance.
The Mets ace freely admitted his frustration and described the feeling of not knowing what to expect every time he let go of the baseball. He sounded helpless.
But he recoiled when asked if he had simply lost his arm slot, as manager Terry Collins suggested a few minutes prior.
Said Harvey: “There’s a lot of unknowns.”
Perhaps, that has been the most striking new reality for Harvey. His mechanical woes have since filtered down to impact his mental state. Confidence has never been in short supply for Harvey, who has long adopted his superhero-inspired “Dark Knight” moniker. But even pitching coach Dan Warthen admitted earlier this season that Harvey is pressing.
“It’s not an easy task,” Harvey said, after allowing five runs on a season-high 11 hits in just 5 2⁄3 innings against the Rockies on Friday night.
On every pitch, the Mets ace wondered if he was over thinking.
“That’s the way it kind of feels every pitch,” he said.
With the exception of his previous start against the Padres earlier on the Mets’ 11-game West Coast road trip, Harvey’s starts have been marked by struggles. When asked if he’s every been in a prolonged slump, Harvey had to remember back to college, when he stumbled as a sophomore at North Carolina state.
But even then, he rediscovered himself quickly.
“It didn’t quite last this long,” Harvey said. “It’s frustrating. It’s taking a lot longer than expected.”
Following the game on Friday night, Collins said Harvey “competed” and “pitched OK,” and catcher Kevin Plawecki noted that the pitcher did not give up “a ton of runs.” Of course, the Mets need far better from their staff ace, who is 3-5 with a pedestrian 4.93 ERA in eight starts. The righty’s velocity has been inconsistent, as has the effectiveness of his secondary pitches, another indication perhaps of his faulty mechanics.
One day after Harvey’s latest disappointment, Collins struggled for answers. He rehashed a familiar theory about last season’s 216 innings, a workload the Mets did not envision, especially in Harvey’s first season after Tommy John surgery.
The manager wondered aloud if Harvey — along with the Mets’ other young guns — got too caught up dazzling onlookers with their best fastballs at the expense of readying their arms for the season.
Said Collins: “I’m just concerned that maybe they were so amped up in spring training that they didn’t give themselves a chance to get ready.”
Whatever the underlying cause, the fallout has been indisputable. Eight starts into the season and Harvey has encountered an identity crisis.
“And it’s obvious,” Collins said. “This guy’s too good, way too good. Even though his career’s not lengthy by any means but he’s never going through anything like this because it’s always been there. Now, it’s not there, and I’m preaching patience . . . I still believe it’s going to come back and he’s going to be fine.”