NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Everyone around the Mets — players, fans and even their opponent — is looking forward to Matt Harvey’s spring debut on Friday.
But manager Terry Collins just hopes his right-hander doesn’t go full-on bulldog — pitching at max effort — in his first start since being diagnosed with a partially torn elbow ligament in August 2013.
“Only Matt Harvey can speak for Matt Harvey,” Collins said on Thursday. “For me, it’s a spring training game. I know that it’s a story because he’s Matt Harvey, but I don’t want to see anything more than I would see in a normal spring training game.”
Fans have been following every step of his comeback from Tommy John surgery, which has had its share of rocky moments. Friday will be a big milestone when Harvey stares down an opposing team for the first time in 18 months against the Detroit Tigers.
“I just want him to understand this is part of the process of getting back,” Collins said. “You’re not going to do any more to make a huge impression on this club by trying to overthrow (Friday). Just go out there, hit your spots, work on your stuff and let the two innings play out. But as we all know, we’re going to have to ratchet him down a little bit probably before he walks out on that mound.”
The 25-year-old Harvey sounded as though he received the message.
“I don’t think my mentality’s going to change at all. It’s just my first outing in spring training, getting ready for what’s coming in the future,” he said. “I’m not looking at it as a comeback or anything of that sort. It’s me preparing for a normal season.”
The New York Post reported earlier this week that Harvey will likely make his first regular-season start on April 9 against the Nationals in Washington. Friday’s workload likely won’t exceed 40 pitches.
“It’s March 6, so we can’t put too much emphasis on the day other than it being 18-plus months since I’ve done something like that,” Harvey said. “It’s still a preparation game and still have a lot of time to keep moving forward.”
Even the Tigers are looking forward to the return of Harvey, who started the All-Star Game for the National League at Citi Field before his season ended devastatingly early two years ago. The Mets ace went 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA and 191 strikeouts in 2013.
“Prior to the surgery, he had premier stuff,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said, according to MLB.com. “He looked like he was bound to be a superstar. Certainly for his sake and the game’s sake, I hope he bounces back and continues where he left off, because he was a very bright spot for Major League Baseball as a young player.”
Harvey will be up against Detroit ace David Price. And that, again, makes Collins concerned that he’ll dial it up too much for a March exhibition.
“That competitive nature that he has, all of a sudden it’s going to be different and he’s going to try to reign himself back, believe me,” Collins said. “But it’s going to be hard for him because he’s going to be so excited to be out there. You got the Tigers — a very good team — and David Price on the other side of the field. You don’t think (Harvey’s) going to be amped up? We’ll do the best we can to make sure he understands what the process is.
“But we’re all anxious to see him get back out there.”