Matt Harvey was back on the Citi Field mound on Tuesday.
He wasn’t pitching in a game, though that may happen before this season ends. A slimmed-down Harvey threw about 25 batting practice pitches to Brandon Nimmo as the Mets’ former ace tries to come back from a stress injury that led to weakness in his right shoulder.
Harvey last threw off the Citi Field mound for real on June 14. He is 4-3 with a 5.25 ERA in 13 starts. At age 28, Harvey isn’t a phenom anymore. He’s hoping to just be a pitcher again.
“Felt great,” Harvey said. “It’s nice to get on a mound again and then obviously do my first live batting practice. Obviously a little rusty at first, but towards the end was able to get the ball down and finish the pitches the way I wanted to. Everything felt great.”
Everything did not feel great when Harvey’s season was interrupted by the shoulder ailment 11 months after he had thoracic outlet surgery. The Dark Knight says the way he feels now is like night and day.
“My arm can work the way that it’s supposed to,” Harvey said. “I think the strength program that we did for the back of my shoulder and for the (scapula) area, now it’s moving the proper way. I think I was talking to (pitching coach) Dan Warthen the other day when I came back from Florida and I said I was excited because it was finally fun to throw a baseball again.”
Nimmo, the lefthanded-swinging backup outfielder, hit a few line drives off Harvey, but was impressed nonetheless.
“I’ve never faced Harvey before,” Nimmo said. “Obviously, the name’s Matt Harvey and I know he has good stuff, so it looked like he had good stuff to me. He’s going to be fine. He knows exactly what he’s capable of and he won’t come back until he’s at the point. He’s going to be just fine, I think.”
The Mets have been reluctant to put a timetable on Harvey’s big-league return other than to say they expect it to happen before season’s end. Harvey said he hopes to pitch in a minor-league rehab game “in the next week or so,” which seems like a quick timeline.
The minor league regular seasons end Labor Day weekend, so it’s possible the Mets will be aggressive with Harvey if he continues to respond.
“He’s just got to continue to build up his arm strength, all the muscles involved,” manager Terry Collins said. “I don’t know how many times he’s got to face a hitter before he goes and starts pitching in a rehab assignment. But he threw (25) pitches today, so he’s got a ways to go.”
Harvey, who said he’s lost “10, 15 pounds,” looked smooth in delivering to Nimmo beginning at around 3 p.m. in the empty stadium. Harvey said he was able to get to full intensity and throw all of his pitches.
“I got after it pretty good,” he said.
Before he was shut down in June, Harvey said, “It was difficult playing catch. It felt like it was always an uphill battle trying to figure out even how to play catch. I knew something wasn’t right at that point, but I tried to fight through it. We came to figure out that the shoulder was just really weak. There’s a lot of nerve issues that were causing the muscles to not respond very well. The time off helped and then obviously the strength programs helped. Everything feels great now.”