Harvey takes rehab to Florida, throws bullpen session
Mets' ace right-hander feels good after tossing 20 fastballs at team's Minors complex
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Matt Harvey finished his running drills, wiped sweat off his face and promptly dumped a bottle of water over his head.
A well-deserved cool off for the Mets' 25-year-old right-hander, who threw a 20-pitch bullpen session to kick off the final stage of his rehabilitation on an 87-degree day at the team's Minor League complex on Tuesday.
Asked if he felt like he'd just started Spring Training, he laughed and said it was maybe a little hotter.
"I'm not quite used to that," Harvey said. "It's a little bit cooler in New York. Not a sweat box."
This throwing session was the first full one off the mound for Harvey, although he did surprise the Mets when he threw about 15 pitches off the mound at Citi Field on Friday. On Tuesday, he worked on his control, threw only fastballs and picked up with his mechanics exactly where he'd left them a few days ago.
The difference was that instead of throwing mostly to someone standing in front of the plate like he did on Friday in an effort to familiarize himself with the slope of the mound again, he threw the full 60 feet, 6 inches Tuesday.
In the 20 fastballs he let go, a single one was off the plate, but he was frustrated anyway because he'd felt himself come out of his mechanics. He admitted to being a perfectionist, but it's hard to blame a guy who barely walks anyone -- in 2013, Harvey allowed 31 walks in 178 1/3 innings, which ranked third best in the Majors behind Bartolo Colon (29) and David Price (27).
The last time Harvey pitched in a Major League game was on Aug. 24, 2013, when he allowed an uncharacteristic 13 hits in 6 2/3 innings against the Tigers. The Mets announced just two days later that Harvey had a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament, but the right-hander didn't undergo Tommy John surgery until late October.
So less than a year has passed in what's normally a 12-18-month rehab process. Harvey had been concerned before Tuesday's session that he wouldn't be able to find the strike zone or that he'd forget his mechanics, which he won't alter -- but all the concern was for naught. He threw hard, like "nothing had happened."
"I didn't think things would feel this good and this easy, but I couldn't be happier," he said. "Excited about moving forward. The mechanics, I feel like they didn't leave in the amount of time that I wasn't able to use them. I was happy that things were smooth and I'm glad I had no setbacks."
Harvey will continue his throwing program in Florida. He'll throw about three more 20-pitch bullpen sessions before he starts mixing in his secondary pitches and increasing the amount of throws. He will work his way up to live batting practice and, from there, keep throwing through September. Mets general manager Sandy Alderson told the media on Friday that the team planned to shut Harvey down at the beginning of October.
Even then, Harvey was so encouraged by the progress he's made that he hasn't completely eliminated the possibility of being back on a Major League mound before the end of the season.
"It's a long process," Harvey said. "There's executives who make those decisions. We'll see what happens. If things start progressing quicker, we can push the envelope a little bit."
Maria Torres is an associate reporter for MLB.com.