Harvey's fastball hits 'extra gear' in debut

Callaway confident in right-hander, who touched 96 mph in one-run outing

February 28th, 2018

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Because Matt Harvey refuses to talk about the past, it is difficult to gauge how the former All-Star starter feels as he attempts to defibrillate his career. Harvey seemed strong enough in his Grapefruit League debut on Wednesday, touching 96 mph in a 6-4 win over the Braves. He seemed confident enough in what manager Mickey Callaway called a sharp slider, confident enough in himself.

But Harvey won't compare anything to last year, when he suffered from shoulder fatigue early and posted an 11.28 ERA late, the whole performance forcing Mets officials to shrug their shoulders regarding his prospects for this season. Few players have a greater range of potential outcomes than Harvey, who won't acknowledge anything but what's right in front of him.

"It's a completely new year," Harvey said. "I'm not talking about last year. I'm not comparing anything to last year, or years before. My mechanics were good today, and I'm excited about the outing."

Throwing 38 pitches in total, Harvey ramped up his velocity more consistently as his outing progressed at Champion Stadium, hitting 95 mph four times during his final batter of the afternoon. He also featured a slider that sat around 86 mph, allowing one run on two hits and a walk against a Braves lineup composed mostly of regulars. Both of Harvey's called third strikes came on mid-90s fastballs.

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"The hitters tell you a lot," Callaway said. "He had that extra gear, that extra life on his fastball. When you have Freddie Freeman swinging at balls late, you know you're doing something right."

As Harvey continues working back from the shoulder weakness that sidelined him for 2 1/2 months last year, and more generally from his July 2016 surgery to correct a career-altering battle with thoracic outlet syndrome, Callaway has stressed that the Mets do not want him to readopt his superhero persona. They do not need the Dark Knight. They simply need a successful fourth starter.

"We're going to rely on Matt Harvey," said Callaway, who has yet to commit publicly to anyone in the rotation but and . "We're going to need to be 10, 11 guys deep."

Throwing mid-90s fastballs and high-80s sliders Wednesday, Harvey certainly looked the part -- if nothing else, his past successes and $5.6 million salary skew the rotation battle in his favor. But there will always be uncertainty. No matter what Harvey does in February and March, the Mets can't trust those results until he reprises them in the regular season.

On that issue, at least, Harvey is willing to talk openly, expressing the same sort of confidence he has throughout his career.

"I'm not looking at stuff from last year," Harvey said. "It's a new year. I'm healthy. I'm ready to go."