Matt Harvey claims he hasn’t felt this good in two years.
How good is good? The Mets right-hander says he threw freely and without discomfort between each of his minor-league rehab starts, something that wasn’t possible as he dealt with thoracic outlet syndrome in 2016 and a stress injury to his right scapula this year.
“Bullpens were becoming a task,” Harvey said. “And that is usually not how things go or should go, and trying to fight through that, it’s not easy.”
Harvey’s latest comeback will begin Saturday, when he is scheduled to pitch Game 1 of a split doubleheader in Houston. It could be the first of two high-profile September returns for the Mets, who are also expecting Noah Syndergaard back from the DL at some point this month.
While Harvey downplayed his diminished velocity in his last start at Double-A Binghamton — he was clocked in the 91-93 mph range — manager Terry Collins acknowledged his former ace’s fastball could become an issue if it doesn’t return.
“We all know Matt Harvey, when he commands his pitches, no matter how hard he is throwing, what made him exceptional was he could throw it at 96-97,” Collins said.
“If he pitches at 93-94, that is still very good, but is his slider back? Because that has been a big pitch for him. Does he have the arm speed on his changeup? All those things that a pitcher does, that is what we’re going to try to pick up.”
In a nightmarish season for both the team and player, the 28-year-old Harvey is 4-3 with a 5.25 ERA in 13 starts. Ideally, he would like to receive five to six starts over this final month of the season and show the Mets he can be counted on heading into 2018.
Last year, Harvey missed the entire second half of the season after undergoing surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. His biggest issue upon returning this year was locating his pitches.
“I think the main thing we’ll make sure, is the arm strength there?” Collins said. “That is certainly something we have to keep an eye on with the injury that he had. And I’m not talking about velocity, I am just talking about making sure the delivery is intact.
“Once you get out of whack with mechanics and change your arm angles, that is when injuries occur. That will be the No. 1 thing we focus on, is everything where it should be? We are just anxious to see how he does.”
Harvey pitched to a 4.63 ERA in his four rehab starts, but team officials are hopeful the adrenaline of returning to the mound against major league hitters will lift the pitcher’s performance level.
Even so, Harvey says he is just relieved the discomfort has subsided and he can handle a normal workload again.
“It’s been a relief to come back after two months, and be able to throw between starts and have no pain and feel like we are going in the complete opposite direction, the right direction,” Harvey said.
Collins’ only concern is Harvey might push too hard Saturday.
“You can just tell from talking to him he’s really fired up about getting out there,” Collins said. “So we just hope that he realizes it’s all about staying comfortable and making pitches and I know [pitching coach] Dan [Warthen] will remind him, ‘Don’t get too caught up, except in staying together and keeping your mechanics together.’ So I am just glad he’s back out there and hopefully this all points that his health is coming back and if that’s the case I think Matt Harvey will come back.”
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