NEW YORK -- When Matt Harvey got called up from Triple-A Buffalo in late July, he was focused on one thing: pitching.Easier said than done. The decision to promote Harvey came on the heels of a brutal start to the second half -- New York had just lost 11 of its first 12 post-All-Star break games, dropping seven games out of the Wild Card after entering the break just half a game back.
Mets manager Terry Collins met with Harvey to ensure the young right-hander knew he was a pitcher, not a savior. Whatever happened before his July 26 debut was out of his control. He was called up because he was ready for the Majors, not because the Mets were desperate for a solution.
"He was driven to make sure that when he was done with his time here, no matter how many starts it was, that we believed he could play and he belonged here," Collins said. "That's what drove him, not to save this team, but to prove that Matt Harvey is the future, and I think he did that."
The future: arguably the most common two-word phrase heard around the concourses of Citi Field this September. But Harvey's -- to say the least -- promising rookie campaign showcased his potential to a fan base driven by "there's always next year," and the 23-year-old right-hander will be the first to tell you how honored he is to be a part of the organization's long-term plans.
And after the 10 starts he put together for the Mets, he certainly will be.
Harvey's promotion was almost by default. Dillon Gee required season-ending surgery, and Johan Santana -- who was on the disabled list when Harvey was called up -- was shut down for the year shortly after. The Mets needed an arm, regardless of whether he was 100 percent ready, but Harvey quieted any and all doubt with 70 strikeouts and a 2.73 ERA over 10 starts.
"When he got up here we saw the product," Collins said. "We saw the reasons why the scouts signed him, and drafted him as high as he was drafted. We saw the makeup, not that you don't see that in Spring Training, but when you see it in competition it's a whole different character."
Harvey is soft-spoken, but certainly doesn't hold back when offering any self-criticism. He's a power pitcher with a 97 mph fastball, but inconsistent command of it was -- and still is -- his primary issue. His impressive rookie stat line likely makes him a lock for next year's rotation, but he says there will be no shortage of time spent improving his efficiency this offseason.
From a team standpoint, Harvey kept opponents at bay, holding them to three runs or less in all but one start. But strikeouts are inefficient by nature, and the more you log, the more pitches you throw. He struck out 11 D-backs in his first start -- a franchise record for a debut -- but it took 106 pitches to do so and he departed after just 5 1/3 innings.
The latter bookend showed vast improvement. Harvey allowed one run on one hit on Sept. 19 against the Phillies. The strikeouts were still there -- seven of them -- but Harvey wasn't dependent upon them. He made up for two of his three walks by inducing ensuing double plays, and as a result, pitched through the seventh inning for the first time in his short Major League career.
The only issue was the outcome. New York's bullpen ultimately blew a 2-1 lead in the ninth inning and Philly held on for the win. Harvey was frustrated at the time -- like most, he values team wins more than any individual statistics. But even he couldn't help but crack a smile when reflecting on it a week later.
"That's the main focus is winning games and doing everything I can to stay here," Harvey said. "Sticking with my approach, not trying to do too much and not trying to be Superman. Just going out, attacking the zone, keeping my body in shape and just not doing too much ... but there's a lot of positives to build on."
Pitch counts and innings limits are more a part of today's game than ever before, and they now hold heavy influence over player development. So while Harvey was frustrated about being shut down for the season in mid-September, he understood the organization's goals.
Mets vice president of player development and amateur scouting Paul DePodesta has overall guidelines in place as to how the team will foster its Minor League arms to prepare them for a demanding Major League schedule. Each case is different, and not every prospect will reach the Majors, but implementing a blanket structure allows the organization to gradually strengthen its arms.
"Each one is an individual case," DePodesta said in early September, confirming that the Mets will likely handle the development of No. 1 overall prospect Zach Wheeler in a similar fashion to Harvey. "We try to build each guy up to a point where hopefully they can get to that 200, 200-plus [innings] level, but it takes a few years."
It was estimated Harvey would be shut down at 165-170 innings, and his seven-inning finale brought his season total to 169 1/3 between the Majors and Minors. The numbers lined up and his season came to an end, but he said it's given him a great chance to increase his clubhouse presence and reflect on the historic campaign teammate R.A. Dickey has put together.
"To be part of something like that it's really cool and really inspiring for the future," Harvey said. "You look at it and you want to be in that position in the future. But all of it, not just R.A. Watching David [Wright] play every day and watching Ike [Davis] hit his home runs, it's something you don't really understand until you get here and it's an awesome feeling."
And a mutual one.
"He's got an inner confidence about him that you don't see from a lot of younger players," Wright said. "In Spring Training, he was not wide-eyed. There was no awe. He works incredibly hard. He's relatively quiet, but he gets along with everybody. I think it's a great mix of that confidence -- not a cockiness, but a confidence -- and also a feeling that he knows he belongs."
Adam Rosenbloom is an associate reporter for MLB.com.