Harvey continues to impress with the Mets
Port St. Lucie, Fla. - As a teaser trailer, it was cut to perfection. It thrilled. It enticed. And it portends - the Mets hope - magical things from a major league arm.
What Matt Harvey offered Thursday afternoon at Tradition Field was a 4 1/3-inning slice of optimism. He confirmed that he's not content with the numbers he squeezed into that 10-start rookie window last season.
"He's on a mission to be real good," Mets manager Terry Collins said after his team's 4-1 win over the Miami Marlins.
For the first time this spring, Harvey put down the type of footprints you expect from a pitching staff's ace. He tossed no-hit ball. He struck out five and walked none. His fastball hit 95 mph on the stadium gun. His off-speed pitches dropped as low as 75 mph.
And when Collins asked Harvey, the former Fitch High School star, if he had 10 more pitches left .
"I told him I had plenty more," Harvey said.
There were two reasons for his success Thursday: his economical approach and his evolving change-up.
First, the economy:
Harvey is a strikeout pitcher. He had 70 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings during his rookie season. The problem with strikeouts is they inflate the pitch count, making it more difficult for a guy like Harvey to go deep in games.
He did a masterful job Thursday of limiting that pitch count. Of the 14 hitters he faced, 11 saw four pitches or less. Of the 48 pitches he threw, 35 were strikes.
"I was very impressed by that," Collins said.
Second, the change-up:
After the game, Harvey insisted he threw it "a lot last year," but said most people probably confused it with a slider that did not move.
But Collins called Harvey's 2012 change-up "inconsistent."
"Even in Triple-A," Collins said. "That was one of the reasons why when I was calling (Buffalo manager) Wally (Backman) about how he was doing, one of the first things he'd say was, 'His change-up is at times good, but at other times non-existent.'Y"
The change-up triggered swings and misses Thursday, perhaps evidence that it has some newfound bite.
Harvey found a connect-the-dots explanation to his success during his longest outing to date.
"Today was the first day I was finally able to bring what I was working on in the bullpen onto the mound," he said. "Felt pretty good. Left a couple balls up, but I was pretty happy with the performance."
And what exactly was he working on during those bullpens?
"Just staying in line a little better," Harvey said. "Watching film from last week, I was rushing a little bit. Kind of crossing my body, throwing across. I always go out and draw a line, and I was on the line pretty much every single time today. That's definitely a plus and a good start to the next month or six months."
Navigating the National League will be a more difficult proposition his second time around the circuit.
"Scouting reports are out now," Collins said. "Films, scouting reports are all over the place. Now it's about making adjustments and making pitches."
On Thursday, he made pitches-just not many of them. It made for an eloquent preview, an appetizer that left Mets fans famished for more.
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