Harvey hits 97 mph in best spring start

March 26th, 2017

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Don't be fooled: Matt Harvey was well aware of his flagging spring velocity and what people thought about it. Knowing that, Mets manager Terry Collins figured Harvey was determined to show off on Sunday, dialing his heater up to a monthly high of 97 mph in the Mets' 8-2 win over the Braves.

Perhaps some part of Harvey wanted to prove it to himself, also.

"Today, he amped it up a little bit," Collins said. "And I'm sure when we get to Citi Field and he gets out there for the first time, he'll amp it up that day, also."

It wasn't just velocity that boosted Harvey in his best start of the spring. There was also a high-80s slider that Harvey routinely buried low-and-away to right-handed hitters, plus a command of all pitches that Harvey lacked for much of the spring.

But the velocity was notable, a leap up from the 92-93 mph range that Harvey lived in for much of March. Although Harvey lost a few ticks on the radar gun later in the game, it hardly dampened his message to the Mets.

"That was a big step -- probably the biggest so far of spring, and moving forward into the season," Harvey said.

Harvey's Grapefruit League ERA still stands at 5.89, but that's down from the 9.64 mark he held just two weeks ago. Since that time, Harvey has started three games, showcasing better velocity and command in each of them. He delivered six innings Sunday against the Braves, striking out four and walking one.

Most importantly, Harvey quieted skeptics who called for the Mets to start him in extended Spring Training or even the Minors. His next outing will come Friday at Citi Field, in an exhibition against the United States Military Academy. From there, Harvey is slated to pitch the Mets' third game of the season against the Braves -- a notion the Mets find far less unnerving than they might have earlier this month.

"The numbers early in spring -- and still -- don't really explain how I feel about moving forward," Harvey said. "I couldn't be happier where I am now and moving forward. I feel I'm ready for a good season."