Inbox: What's Harvey's spot in Mets' rotation?

Beat reporter Anthony DiComo answers questions from fans

March 21st, 2017

Is it possible Matt Harvey is the odd man out with and Zack Wheeler starting the season in the rotation? Extended spring camp?

-- @PaulieOliver via Twitter

I can't tell you how many of my Twitter followers asked this week if there is a way to exclude Harvey from the rotation. While I certainly understand the pessimism regarding his 7.30 ERA in four spring starts, you're talking about a sample size of 12 1/3 exhibition innings for a pitcher eight months removed from major surgery.

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Yes, Harvey's velocity is a concern, but there's a limit to that. He is throwing 93 mph and hitting 96 mph on occasion. Harvey's velocity is Major League-caliber by any estimation, and with the right location, it is more than enough to retire professional hitters.

So no, there's not much of a realistic chance that Harvey will start the year in extended spring camp, the bullpen or the Minor Leagues. He's not injured. Harvey is no longer rehabbing. He is simply a pitcher trying to work his way back into form, struggling to do it but making strides each outing. If Harvey starts scuffling during the regular season or suffers a medical setback, it would be different. Until or unless that happens, he is a member of this rotation.

With 's spring struggles, is he still likely to be the Opening Day closer (assuming is suspended)?

-- @gmb1326 via Twitter

I should just hang a big sign that says "Don't look at Spring Training statistics" and call it a day. Reed is a veteran who relies on command, not velocity, and he struggled with that in two bad outings earlier this month. Since then, Reed has rattled off three scoreless innings with five strikeouts and one hit. Seven of his nine Grapefruit League outings have been scoreless. Reed's track record suggests he's the best man to sub for Familia, and it's not particularly close.

If I have any concern about Reed this year, it's how his body will hold up after throwing a career-high 77 2/3 innings last season, appearing in 12 more games than he had before. But that's a worry for the dog days of August, not March.

Are the Mets keeping tabs on ?

-- @RealHVargas via Twitter

I seem to get a question regarding Johnson every week. According to FOX Sports, Johnson is still seeking a guaranteed Major League deal, which takes the Mets completely out of the equation. Between , Ty Kelly and Matt Reynolds, the Mets feel they have more than enough infield depth on league-minimum salaries. While Johnson was an important piece here for parts of two seasons and a clubhouse favorite, there's simply no room for him on the roster.

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If Johnson decides to concede to a Minor League deal, perhaps the Mets would check in with him. If he signs elsewhere and the Mets have a need in July, perhaps they might (comically) trade for him a third time. But if the Mets wanted Johnson on a guaranteed contract in March, they would have signed him by now.

I really want Rivera to get a shot at second base after leaves. What do you think?

-- @RealModelMike via Twitter

I think it's possible, but not probable. For starters, there's still a chance the Mets and Walker work out a long-term contract extension at some point this year, which would torpedo any chance Rivera has to become the starting second baseman. But even if that doesn't happen, Rivera must break through the Mets' perceived ceiling of him: a good hitter who is below average in the areas of defense, power and plate discipline.

It's been remarkable to see Rivera grow from an undrafted free agent to a likely member of the big league bench, forcing his way up at every level. No doubt, he deserves to be here. But the front office remains skeptical of Rivera's long-term outlook, which is why I doubt he'll be an unquestioned starter in New York. The Mets are also grooming former first-round Draft pick at second base, where he's a solid half-season away from getting to the big leagues for good.

How has looked against the run? Still going to split time with ?

-- @SpikerIsAwesome via Twitter

d'Arnaud hasn't looked great, to be honest, allowing seven stolen bases and catching just one runner. Even in Spring Training, the scouting report is fully out on him, creating a legitimate concern for the Mets heading into the season. The team has committed itself to d'Arnaud, meaning he's going to start on a near-everyday basis. The Mets believe he is primed for an offensive outbreak. They consider d'Arnaud's pitch framing excellent. But throwing remains a Home Run Apple-sized elephant in the room.

Once again, d'Arnaud enters this season with plenty of rope as the Mets' starting catcher; the team is not going to abandon him after a bad few weeks. But it was just last season that Rivera established himself as the starter almost entirely on the basis of his superior defense. If the Mets find themselves in a situation where d'Arnaud's throwing issues are costing them games, it would be easy to see the club again begin pairing Rivera with , who struggles to contain the running game. From there, a slippery slope awaits.