When Matt Harvey was announced, a loud cheer resonated from the home crowd. It was a cheer reserved only for the pitcher they refer to as “the Dark Knight”.
However, the setting on this particular evening wasn’t Gotham or Flushing, Queens. Harvey was making his second rehab start for the Brooklyn Cyclones.
Harvey pitched three scoreless innings, throwing 36 pitches, in the Cyclones 6-2 loss to the Aberdeen Ironbirds, at MCU Park in Coney Island.
It was an impressive turnaround from Harvey’s previous start for the Cyclones, this past weekend. He only pitched one inning, threw 18 pitches, and struggled with his control while giving up one run on the road against the Hudson Valley Renegades.
“My arm feels great right now,” said a relaxed Harvey after his outing. “I was able to get three innings under my belt for the first time in a long time.”
On this night Harvey looked comfortable from the first pitch. He threw a 1-2-3 first inning on eight pitches, six of them for strikes. He allowed one hit in the second, was charged with a wild pitch but quickly erased that baserunner with a smooth pickoff throw to second base.
It was the third inning, however, where Harvey was in vintage mode. He struck out the side in his final frame of work and departed to more cheers from the crowd.
“For me, it’s a feel thing, it’s a mechanical thing.” Harvey said. “obviously that last inning things started clicking. Definitely inching closer.”
Harvey’s competitive nature is very much alive and well, even on this humid August night in Brooklyn where he continued to work his way back from a stress injury to the scapula bone.
One look into Harvey’s eyes, as he talked about what returning to the Mets this year would mean to him, it’s clear his ambition is as high as it’s always been.
“It’s huge,” said Harvey. “We want to win as many games as we can. Obviously, going into next year and everything I’ve gone through the last two years, coming out and finishing the season strong and going into next year is huge. Huge for me and big for us moving forward.”
That last inning of work was the old Harvey and a reminder of how he took New York City by storm in the summer of 2012. But injuries have sidetracked him from the Ace position of the Mets pitching staff.
“The biggest thing is how I feel,” Harvey added. “And how my arm feels.”
“He’s been out for two and a half months and has had a tough time, but hopefully the way he looked tonight, he can keep that going,” said Cyclones manager Edgardo Alfonzo after the game. “This is the guy we (the Mets) need on the big-league team. He is one of those warrior types that fights to get on the field, and he’ll be ready in a couple of starts if he keeps this going.”
There’s a logical debate to be had on if Harvey can regain the form which put him on the cover of magazines and helped earn him All-Star status.
If that’s to happen, patience must be exercised by Harvey himself. It’s encouraging to see how much Harvey wants to pitch on the big stage again before this season is out, but there’s a bigger picture to keep tabs on for the 28-year old.
Harvey’s under contract through 2018, after that there’s a question mark about as long as the Jackie Robinson parkway.
The Mets are already out of the conversation for any postseason plans this year. But in 2018, if they can avoid getting hit hard by injuries again, could be legitimate contenders. A healthy Harvey, pitching well again, would play a key role in those plans. It could also set the table for his next contract.
Harvey’s numbers tonight were a reminder of what was and what still could be for the Mets if the injury gods lighten up on them next year.