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SportsColumnistsAnthony Rieber

Confidence boost for Matt Harvey and Mets

Matt Harvey of the Mets looks on from

Matt Harvey of the Mets looks on from the dugout after being pinch-hit for in the fifth inning against the Phillies at Citi Field on April 3, 2018. Credit: Getty Images / Rich Schultz

Matt Harvey was standing on first base after lining a single to leftfield on Tuesday night when a bat boy brought out a jacket. It was a pretty raw night at Citi Field.

A half-inning earlier, Phillies starter Ben Lively had reached on an error. Seconds later, he was wearing a bright red Phillies jacket.

Harvey, though, said no thanks. No jacket required. A cape, maybe. He is, after all, the Dark Knight.

“It wasn’t that bad,” he said of the temperature, which was 40 degrees at the start.

His nightmare 2017 behind him, Harvey threw five shutout innings against the Phillies in his first start of the season. He wasn’t vintage — the fastball was 90-93 miles per hour, not 95-98 — but Harvey gave only up one hit, walked one and struck out five in an 86-pitch gem.

“I think he is going to throw 96,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “I think if it were a warm, summer day you would have seen a little more velo.”

Harvey left for a pinch hitter in a scoreless game and ended up with a no-decision in the Mets’ 2-0 victory.

All five of Harvey’s strikeouts were on fastballs. If he stays healthy and builds up arm strength throughout the season, Harvey should get back to the mid-90s. But that’s not really the point.

The point is that Harvey was out there at all. He’s 29 and has had two major surgeries. His last big season was 2015, when Facebook was a place to keep up with your friends and not a “platform” to watch a Mets game, as it will be on Wednesday afternoon.

A lot has changed in the world since Harvey was king of the hill in Flushing. He’s no longer the big dog with Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz usurping him.

Harvey is the fourth man in that quartet, as Callaway made clear when he announced his first-week rotation. So Harvey, who used to pitch the biggest games under the brightest lights, instead made his 2018 debut on a misty night in front of a few thousand hearty souls.

At least Callaway didn’t use Monday’s snowout as a reason to move Harvey’s start back a day. In a small sign of respect, Callaway decided to keep Harvey on his day and instead skipped No. 5 starter Seth Lugo, who threw two perfect innings of relief with four strikeouts on Tuesday.

Harvey was smooth throughout, striking out at least one batter in all but the fourth inning. He worked around a leadoff single in the second, an error by shortstop Jose Reyes in the third and a leadoff walk in the fourth. That’s nine batters during which Harvey worked out of the stretch, and he retired all of them.

Callaway could end up being the best thing to happen to Harvey. After going 5-7 with a 6.70 ERA last season, Harvey didn’t just need a clean slate. He needed the old slate thrown into the Hudson.

On Tuesday, for example, Callaway responded to a pregame question about “Matt’s” three-game suspension last season for not showing up to a game with an unintentionally amusing initial answer.

“Who got suspended?” a confused Callaway said. “Oh, Harv. I thought you said, ‘Matz.’ ”

Once he figured out the question was about Harvey and not Long Island’s favorite lefty, Callaway said: “You know, I don’t really know much about that situation. It really doesn’t concern me . . . He’s a model citizen as far as I’m concerned. I’m glad he’s on our team.”

While Callaway said, “The confidence is there,” Harvey said it’s not just that.

“I think it’s just knowing that I’m healthy and that I can go out there and I’m not in pain,” Harvey said. “There’s no issues.”

And when’s the last time Harvey could say that?

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