LAS VEGAS - By now, Matt Harvey should know how this works. It’s his job to pitch, wear the expensive suits, show up at the glitzy parties, pose for photos, make the headlines. All part of the gig as the young, admired, man-about-town Mets ace.
And our job is to chronicle as much of that stuff as we can. The good, the bad, the potty-themed.
It’s not complicated, this athlete-media relationship, even in New York. The back page is where the sporting world’s kings reside — and, just as often, the jesters.
This week, Harvey found himself there photo-shopped with a urinal, accompanied by all the pee puns that possibly could be conveyed in oversized print. In 24 hours, Harvey’s very real health scare, which turned out to be a bladder infection, became a punch line.
He didn’t like it, and understandably so. Urinating blood is not very funny to the person who is doing it regardless of the reason, even if Harvey later said doctors told him the condition stemmed from not relieving himself frequently enough.
OK, we see how that last part might produce a few giggles. But Harvey made his point by clamming up after his final Grapefruit League start Wednesday in Port St. Lucie. Objection noted.
To carry this media blackout to Kansas City, however, would be a mistake. Tomorrow marks the first Opening Night start of Harvey’s career. Refusing to speak with reporters — and, by extension, the fans — about the big moment is more trouble than it’s worth, really.
We’re not only talking about Harvey, either. He’s already shown the ability to surf this kind of turbulence like Kelly Slater. Backed into a corner by the innings-limit brouhaha last season, he looked like a hero by tossing away those handcuffs for October. Everyone loved him for it.
But by not conversing with the media, he drags his teammates into the fray. That’s what happened Friday to David Wright, who tried to keep the discussion at arm’s length.
Without Harvey to interview, we had to turn to Wright for some insight, and the affable captain wasn’t playing along this time.
Does he think Harvey is looking forward to facing the Royals, based on how World Series Game 5 unraveled for him?
“Ask Matt,” Wright replied, trying to stifle a grin. “If he’s talking to you.”
We tried again a minute later. This time the question was about Harvey thriving on the controversy, maybe even performing better under these type of circumstances. Wright smiled.
“I am not Matt Harvey’s mouthpiece,” he said. “I imagine playing in the big leagues, getting a chance to pitch Opening Day, should be motivation enough. So I expect him to go out there and pitch well.”
All of this was necessary because Harvey took the almost unprecedented step of skipping the customary Opening Day advance session with reporters. The Mets are holding a closed workout Saturday at Kauffman Stadium and Harvey will be off limits Sunday before that night’s start.
So we’ll have to wait until after the opener to hear from Harvey, if he chooses to lift the boycott at that point.
In the meantime, Terry Collins revealed yesterday that the Mets’ final roster moves, mainly the decision to keep 12 pitchers, were partly influenced by what happened with Harvey during the past week. Although they expect him to be fine, the Mets realize there is the potential to play long games against the Royals, and they wanted the insurance.
“We just got to be careful,” Collins said. “He’s on some medication. I don’t know how that’s going to affect him, so we just thought we’d carry one more pitcher.”
Is Harvey OK? We’ll have to take the Mets’ word for it, because he hasn’t spoken on the subject since Tuesday’s dugout news conference at Tradition Field.
The last two times he pitched, he allowed nine runs in five innings, with more walks (five) than strikeouts (four).
Knowing Harvey, we doubt that will continue tomorrow night. But we’d prefer to get those assurances from him, and he’s big enough to understand he should be providing them.