Where is the Matt Harvey who started the All-Star Game in 2013 and won 13 games with a 2.71 ERA for the 2015 National League champions?
Well, for now he’s in the bullpen.
Harvey fell to 0-2 with an ERA of six after his last start in Atlanta. He gave up six runs in six innings, three in the first and three more in the third.
Guy Hansen, a former pitching coach with the Royals who has worked with David Cone, Bret Saberhagen and Zack Greinke, has some good news.
“I don’t think he’s doomed at all,” Hansen said.
“Harvey showed some life to his fastball, more action when it’s downstairs,” Hansen said of Harvey’s last start.
“When he absolutely paints the corners, he got a couple of strikeouts.”
Some other observations from Hansen: “I would say it’s obvious that Harvey loves the far left side of the rubber, hits heel first and has a stand up type finish.”
The tandem of Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland was brought in to make the starting rotation elite once again. And Harvey will be entering free agency, meaning a strong year would help him in contract negotiations. Callaway has seen this in Cleveland, where Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar made several appearances out of the bullpen. And in Kansas City, Danny Duffy was a starter and reliever for the 2015 World Series champs, while Wade Davis remained in the bullpen as a premier closer.
While Harvey previously bounced back from Tommy John surgery to win NL Comeback Player of the Year, it remains to be seen if he can pitch the same way after dealing with thoracic outlet syndrome.
“If Harvey has lost some velocity due to arm issues and age, he better improve his deception or he will get punished,” Hansen said.
The velocity on his fastball has been steadily decreasing, from 96.5 MPH in 2015 to 94.5 in 2016, to 92.5 this season.
In his first start of the season, Harvey pitched five innings of one-hit shutout ball against the Phillies. But that has the been the exception, not the rule. In his next start start in Washington, he gave up four runs in five innings. Then four runs in five innings again against Milwaukee. Then the six runs in six innings in Atlanta, although it did mark the first time he’s pitched six innings since last May.
“It just looks like his far left side of the rubber start position, plus a stand up type finish screams, ‘Hit me.’ Couple that with a drop in velo and I assume few changeups thrown, puts him in position to put up crooked numbers.”
Harvey had success with the changeup late in spring training, a pitch Hansen calls the best friend a pitcher ever had, yet one not used by many.
“I would get him to consider some deception through moving to right center of rubber and finishing over his front side with a slightly lower finish, work his breaking ball off of the hitter, and use a change.”
There is always the chance Harvey will find himself back in the rotation, and Hansen feels Harvey can get hitters out as a starting pitcher because he still throws hard enough and because of the improved defense of the Mets. “But not without some deception, use of the change up, and getting over his front side to create a better downer plane,” Hansen added.
Harvey might not be The Dark Knight, but according to Hansen, he still has something to contribute.