LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — You remember Matt Harvey, right? The Dark Knight, the innings-limits brouhaha, the guy who fought Terry Collins for the baseball in Game 5 of the World Series.
But lately? He’s mostly known as the player with the parking space next to Yoenis Cespedes.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Harvey was incredible theater last season, a publicity magnet who generated more headlines than a Rubio-baited Trump. From the March Madness of his spring training return to the disappointing playoff finish, the Eric Hosmer double that ruined his Halloween heroics at Citi.
People call it “Harvey Day” for a reason, and as red-letter events go, there’s few on the baseball calendar more entertaining.
This year, however, Harvey has done a decent job of blending into the Port St. Lucie landscape. His gunmetal gray Maserati, a dazzling automobile, might as well be a Prius once Cespedes began showing up with his Slingshot collection.
Noah Syndergaard rode a horse to work, trailed by a parade of reporters, Jacob deGrom wrestled with the front office in refusing to sign his contract. Harvey? He’s working on a slider. Yawn.
It almost feels like Harvey is trying to go low-key after his gabfests with Bravo’s Andy Cohen and “Late Night’s” Seth Meyers this winter. The most high-profile thing he’s done since is a TV appearance at Duffy’s across from the ballpark. Not exactly the red carpet at a Victoria’s Secret event.
Harvey’s all business, freed from the strict regimen of TJ rehab and able to focus on, well, improving rather than worrying about his health. As pitching coach Dan Warthen put it, his ace pupil can channel his energies toward one thing.
“Being Harvey,” Warthen said.
Down here, at the Mets’ lonely spring training outpost, that means building up the arm strength and refining his off-speed pitches, to do what he did Tuesday to the Braves at Disney’s Champion Stadium. Harvey came out firing, disposing of them in the first inning on just six pitches, all fastballs: 96, 96, 96, 97, 96, 96.
“Everything feels good,” Harvey said. “So I just kind of let it go.”
From there, Harvey mixed in his curveball, changeup and, of course, the tuned-up slider, a pitch he admittedly didn’t really have in his first season back from TJ surgery. Mallex Smith, the Braves’ talented 22-year-old outfield prospect, wished that Harvey waited until later this month to unleash it. Smith whiffed when he tried to check his swing on a slider after fouling off two bunt attempts.
“It was pretty filthy,” Smith said. “He had a reason to be pleased with it.”
Afterward, standing at his locker, Harvey did sound happy with his progress. He said the surgically repaired elbow was not on his mind last season, but his arm has developed increased extension over time, enabling him to better finish his pitches.
Harvey also has to be thrilled — like everyone else — that we can forget about the No. 180, as in the trumpeted cutoff point for his innings a year ago. His primary concern, this early in spring training, has to be dialing back the adrenaline a bit. But that’s no different from the rest of the young rotation.
“We’re trying to get him to understand it,” Terry Collins said. “We know he’s back, we know he’s going to be healthy. The process has to be slowed down a little bit. Jake’s going to be all ramped up and so will Noah.”
The Mets’ rotation is a pretty inclusive group now. No more Harvey Rules. At least for now. Looking at the row of lockers at Tradition Field, the Fifth Avenue of pitching real estate, Harvey is just the guy at the end. Nothing special. Four have had TJ surgery, and three are capable of being dominant again this season — with Zack Wheeler still working through the rehab.
“I think we’re on the same page,” Harvey said.
But Harvey really is different, he’s still the star, and when spring training is over, we’ll see that again. Presumably when Harvey starts Opening Night in Kansas City. That is a stage made for him — a prime-time, World Series rematch — and there’s no way Collins doesn’t give him the baseball for that assignment.
After six weeks in the shadows, Harvey will be more than ready for the spotlight.