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Harvey showing he can be key piece of rotation

Mets righty's fastball rests in mid-90s for second straight spring outing
MLB.com @AnthonyDiComo

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- There was a time, however brief, when Matt Harvey was the unquestioned ace of the Mets' rotation.

That time is past, likely never to return. Since Harvey began experiencing significant health issues in 2013, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard have motored by him on the team's depth chart. Those two, now, are the Mets' best pitchers, in whatever order the club wants to slot them. Those two have left Harvey behind.

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- There was a time, however brief, when Matt Harvey was the unquestioned ace of the Mets' rotation.

That time is past, likely never to return. Since Harvey began experiencing significant health issues in 2013, Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard have motored by him on the team's depth chart. Those two, now, are the Mets' best pitchers, in whatever order the club wants to slot them. Those two have left Harvey behind.

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But that hardly means Harvey is done as a significant member of this pitching staff. To the contrary, he continued demonstrating Monday that he can be a viable rotation member, blanking the Tigers over three innings of a 4-2 Mets victory.

As long as he stays healthy, Harvey will start one of the Mets' first five games of the season, looking to reestablish himself as a key piece -- if not the piece -- for the Mets.

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"You don't want to be a weak link in such a powerful rotation," Harvey said. "That's what keeps us going, and pushing each other so hard. It's nice to finally be part of that."

Resting in the mid-90s with his fastball for a second straight Grapefruit League outing, Harvey struck out two, walked one and allowed one hit, throwing 48 pitches. Had home-plate umpire Ben May awarded him a called strike three on a close pitch to Miguel Cabrera in the first inning, Harvey might have done even better.

As it was, three shutout innings were enough, considering the way in which Harvey achieved them. Even during his struggles late last season, the former All-Star Game starter demonstrated that, as he tries to come back from thoracic outlet syndrome, arterial surgery and a resulting bout of shoulder weakness, he possesses enough velocity to succeed. Monday, Harvey also mixed in a curveball for the first time this spring, to complement his upper-80s changeup and slider.

Tweet from @Mets: Mickey Callaway says he saw a lot out of @MattHarvey33 today. pic.twitter.com/R1qdH6gWk9

Harvey didn't look exactly like his old dominant self -- he likely never will again. But he showed a skill set broad enough for most mid-rotation starters around baseball to envy.

"I'm not reverting to anything that's in the past, any mechanics, anything," Harvey said, referring to a change that he and manager Mickey Callaway worked on early this spring to speed up his delivery, thus correcting a flaw Callaway first noticed on video from late 2015. "This is a completely new year, like I've said. My mechanics are completely different. My arm's completely different."

Video: DET@NYM: Harvey K's one over three scoreless frames

Over his final four spring outings, Harvey hopes to build his arm strength up to the point that he can regularly throw 100-plus pitches in games. Once that again becomes a part of his skill set, there's little reason to believe Harvey can't be the type of pitcher the Mets need him to be.

"He can be very, very good," Callaway said. "He's got good stuff. We saw today he can fall behind and still challenge guys and get outs. That was no slouch lineup he faced today. They had some pretty good hitters in there. So he can be very, very, very good for us."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.

New York Mets, Matt Harvey