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YORK -- The message was the same from many different voices -- from Matt Harvey's Minor League manager to his agent to his new teammates in Flushing. All of them congratulated Harvey, one of the game's top pitching prospects, before warning him to not "try and be Superman."
"That's not possible," Harvey said Monday, after arriving at Citi Field for the first time as a big leaguer. "I can't be perfect. The only thing I can do is go out and do the best I can, and try to win as many games as I can."
The Mets activated Harvey -- their second-ranked prospect and the 30th-ranked in baseball, according to MLB.com's 2012 Prospect Watch -- on Tuesday, in advance of his big league debut Thursday in Phoenix. It is all part of a plan initially to limit Harvey's exposure to the sights and sounds of New York -- though with their rotation in shambles, the Mets have suddenly become a bit less cautious regarding their power right-hander.
"We need a guy on Thursday," manager Terry Collins said. "He's the guy. If you can pitch in the big leagues, you can pitch in Arizona."
Should all go according to what the Mets hope, Harvey will remain in the rotation not just for the rest of this season, but for years to come. Team officials on Monday were mum about an innings limit for Harvey down the stretch, saying only that they will monitor him going forward. But even if the club backs off his workload at times, Harvey will continue to start every five games as long as he performs.
And so one heralded piece of the future arrived Monday in an otherwise downtrodden Citi Field clubhouse, amidst significant fanfare that the Mets tried to downplay. Scouts around baseball agree that Harvey is not the organization's top prospect -- Zack Wheeler is. But he is in the conversation. Along with right-handers Wheeler, Jeurys Familia and Jenrry Mejia, the Mets hope that they will manage to develop at least one ace and a stellar supporting cast.
Harvey could ultimately become that ace, even if the Mets have been careful not to heap too much praise on him too soon. As recently as last week, the team deemed Harvey unready for the big leagues, after dispatching a small army of team officials to watch him pitch at Triple-A Buffalo. Harvey endured a bumpy start that night and a poor one the next time out, increasing his Triple-A ERA to 3.68 in 20 starts spanning 110 innings, with a 7-5 record, 112 strikeouts and 40 walks.
But after Miguel Batista struggled in a spot start over the weekend and Johan Santana landed on the disabled list, the Mets deemed Harvey their best option to pitch Thursday's game in Phoenix.
"I think we've tried to make an effort to temper expectations, in part because we can't, nor can the player, guarantee immediate results," general manager Sandy Alderson said. "This is part of a longer-term plan, and the success may come over time, as opposed to immediately."
Still, success has to start somewhere. The Mets hope that for Harvey, it begins Thursday at Chase Field, with his immediate family and a small group of friends in attendance.
"This kid's determined to be successful," Collins said. "I am not worried about him having a bad start or two. He knows it's all part of the process."