ST. LOUIS -- In the days following Matt Harvey's announced move to the bullpen, the Mets right-hander made his displeasure with the decision known. He admitted to being angry. He referred to himself as "a starting pitcher," and vowed to earn back that title. In the bullpen, Harvey wore a hood over his head, rarely offering any expression other than a glower.
Behind closed doors, Harvey and manager Mickey Callaway "had a lot of conversations, just he and I about the whole thing," according to the manager.
"And you know what?" Callaway said. "He's taking it like a man. He wasn't excited about it. He's going to go out there and do the job."
Harvey did so semi-effectively Tuesday in the Mets' 6-5 win over the Cardinals, allowing St. Louis' go-ahead run in the fifth inning, but recovering to pitch a scoreless sixth. Harvey gave up one run on two hits and a walk, striking out two.
Afterward, Harvey refused to speak to media members, leaving his manager and rookie catcher Tomas Nido, who had never before worked with Harvey in a regular-season game, to talk for him.
"He threw the ball well," Callaway said. "The stuff was crisp. He kept the ball down. And it looked like, to me, he was out there challenging hitters and attacking."
One of the Mets' hopes in moving Harvey to the bullpen was that he might reclaim some of his lost velocity, after he averaged 93 mph on his four-seam fastball in four starts and topped out at 95.1. But Harvey fell right in line with those numbers Tuesday, throwing his hardest pitch at 94.7 mph.
Perhaps more important for Harvey was command, which was a mixed bag. While Harvey painted the bottom of the zone with a called third strike to Yadier Molina in the fifth, he also threw fastballs down the middle to William Fowler, who doubled, and Paul DeJong, who doubled home a run. Half of the batters to face Harvey put balls in play of at least 92 mph, according to Statcast™, while half of those came screaming off bats at 107 mph or greater.
And yet, the Mets did their best to take the positives out of Harvey's outing.
"I thought he looked really good," Nido said. "We went after the guys, not getting cute. We just attacked them."
"There's no doubt that tonight, he went out and just attacked, and was trying to help the team," Callaway added. "He's manned up, and he's going to do the job."
The Mets moved Harvey to the bullpen last weekend to make room for Jason Vargas, who is set to return from the disabled list on Saturday. Although Zack Wheeler, whom the Mets chose over Harvey to remain in the rotation, struggled, giving up four runs in four innings, Wheeler is in no imminent danger of losing his job.
If an injury strikes, things may change. For now, the Mets simply want to see Harvey get better.
"I want him to feel like he's getting better and improving," outfielder Jay Bruce said. "I know he wants the opportunity to start, and I know he knows he can be an asset to this team. That's what everyone wants"