Friday, March 6, 2015

Back Where He Belongs

I had, for some reason, blindly assumed that the Mets first Spring Training game of 2015 was today, against the Tigers in Port St. Lucie, and that the Mets had decided to give Matt Harvey the ball to mark the occasion. Turns out I was totally off, because the Mets first game was actually on Wednesday and whether or not it was on TV, I yakked on it completely. I don't know if they won, I don't even know who pitched. Not that it matters, especially. Spring Training games are only useful if you want to see some veteran guys assured of a roster spot half-ass it for a few innings, and then a bunch of young kids looking to make a good impression hit the field in the late innings and play like tigers (not Detroit Tigers, actual Tigers). Turns out that Friday was a first game of sorts, but only because it was the Mets first Home Game of Spring Training, and also the first game of the Spring to be shown on TV.

Then, there's the case of Matt Harvey, who finally took the mound in some kind of a game situation against live hitters that were up there to hit the ball and played for a team that isn't the Mets. I went so far as to DVR the game from 1pm until 2pm, because all I was really interested in was seeing Harvey. Sure, there was a rest of a game to be played, and the Mets ended up winning courtesy of a Matt Reynolds walkoff Home Run, but nobody was tuning in for Matt Reynolds. Even Noah Syndergaard, fresh off his lunch break, was relegated to the undercard. Harvey was the story, and he'll be the story all Spring as he hit the mound for the first time since August of 2013. It seems like so much has happened since then, but the short of it is that Harvey can basically be treated as though he were a Free Agent acquisition, because he's now being added to a loaded pitching staff that fared reasonably well in his absence in 2014.

If Harvey had any lingering ill effects from the Big Boy Surgery he had back in October of 2013, he didn't display them this afternoon, as his two innings of work went off about as well as you could hope for: 2 innings, no hits, no walks, 3 strikeouts, 25 pitches, 16 strikes and touching 99 on the radar gun. The effort was so good, it gave the impression that he'd never left, never been injured.

It's always tough to tell how a pitcher will respond to the Big Boy Surgery, which is why it's so nerve wracking to see it happen to a star player like Harvey. Most pitchers seem to recover just fine and end up back at the level they were before getting injured (see Wainwright, Adam; Smoltz, John; deGrom, Jacob). The fear, as I've said many times, is that the pitcher ends up turning into another coming of Bill Pulsipher, and we as Mets fans are once again left holding our jocks while other teams laugh at us. I know it's one game, and it's a Spring Training game no less, but to see Harvey go out there and look like he was all the way back from this can only be viewed as highly encouraging, and I'm as cynical as any Mets fan can get.

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