With R.A. Dickey gone, Matt Harvey looks to step up role in NY Mets' starting pitching rotation
In addition to Harvey, Johan Santana (shoulder) and Dillon Gee (blood clot) are returning, and Jonathon Niese hopes to build on a career-best 13-9 campaign. Zack Wheeler is seen as the eventual fifth starter.
Matt Harvey stands at the forefront of the Mets’ future alongside fellow starting pitcher Zack Wheeler and catcher Travis d’Arnaud, the key prospect acquired in the R.A. Dickey trade earlier this winter.
Harvey also was the first of the new wave of high-end talent to arrive at Citi Field. Despite having just 10 major league starts under his belt, he doesn’t see why that future can’t be accelerated into 2013.
“I feel like we absolutely can do something this year,” Harvey told the Daily News before throwing a brief bullpen session Monday at Citi. “That’s why we all play the game. R.A. will be difficult to replace, obviously. But as players, we’re not looking at this as rebuilding for next year or the year after.
“It’s now, it’s this year, and we feel like we can win and we’re going to do everything we can to play into October.”
Even with Dickey’s storybook run to the Cy Young Award, the Mets were far from postseason contention last season. A nice first-half story under manager Terry Collins devolved into a 74-88 finish, but Harvey’s audition following a midsummer arrival was a legitimate bright spot.
And his two months in the rotation observing the team’s former knuckleballing ace clearly served him well.
“You learn so much from watching a performance like (Dickey’s), regardless of styles,” Harvey said. “You strive to win the Cy Young. You strive to win 20-plus games. Being my first year and getting to see that, you really do get to witness what needs to be done, in terms of preparation and approach, in order for a season like that to happen.”
Harvey, the Mets’ first-round pick (seventh overall) out of North Carolina in 2010, also believes the Mets have a chance for a “tremendous” starting rotation in Dickey’s absence. Johan Santana (shoulder) and Dillon Gee (blood clot) are returning and Jonathon Niese hopes to build on a career-best 13-9 campaign. Wheeler is seen as the eventual fifth starter.
“Man, he’s got some electric stuff,”
Harvey said of Wheeler. “I’ve talked to (Triple-A manager) Wally (Backman) quite a bit and he thinks the sky is the limit for Zack.
“It’s fun to think that you possibly can have a starting rotation similar to what the Braves had with (Greg) Maddux, (Tom) Glavine and (John) Smoltz. … That’s what we’re going to strive for, too. (Wheeler) wants to be the best, I want to be the best, and so does every other guy that’s dressing in this clubhouse.”
While Harvey’s 3-5 record for the Mets wasn’t particularly showy, the power righty posted a 2.73 ERA, an impressive 1.15 WHIP and struck out 70 in just 59.1 big-league innings.
“It was good to get some games last year, but I know this is a business and about performance. Nothing’s going to be handed to me,”
Harvey said. “I want to prove that I belong in the big leagues and prove that I should be one of those top five guys all year.”
Harvey, 23, reached his organization-imposed innings limit of 170 (including 110 in the minors) before he was shut down after tossing seven innings of one-hit, one-run ball against the Phillies on Sept. 19.
“I didn’t want to be shut down, but I understand the reasoning of it,”
Harvey says. “I’d like to go into this season with no limits, to let me pitch and try to win every game. As a young pitcher, you look at some of the bigger guys, the (Justin) Verlanders and guys like that, guys who are known as workhorses. That’s someone I expect to be like.”
Thus, the Connecticut product plans to report to Port St. Lucie around Feb. 4, a week ahead of reporting time for pitchers and catchers.
“I thought I was going to be a lot more nervous last year, especially the first (start). But I felt really comfortable, I felt ready and I felt like I belonged,” said Harvey, who struck out 11 Diamondbacks in his major-league debut July 26. “I’m going into this year with a lot of confidence.”