Amazin's Ace To Face Strasburg In First Regular-Season Game Since August 2013

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Matt Harvey has been itching to help the Mets.

That day has finally arrived. New York’s ace, with his surgically repaired elbow, will take the mound Thursday afternoon in Washington for his first regular-season start in more than 19 months.

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“It’s a huge thing for everybody in baseball,” Mets manager Terry Collins said, according to “This is one of the great, great players in the game, and you love to watch him.”

The 26-year-old was dominant in spring training with a 1.19 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 22.2 innings. But nobody will remember those numbers by the end of April.

Now the games count.

“I think because of the work that’s been done in spring training and the buildup that we’ve had, I don’t really imagine that anything’s going to be too much different,” Harvey said. “But I really don’t know until I get out there. As of now, I don’t feel any different than any other start. I’m excited to get things going and put the injury behind me.”

Harvey was shut down in August 2013 with a torn elbow ligament and — after a brief flirtation with rehab — decided to undergo Tommy John surgery in October. He famously battled with the team last year over his return; Harvey wanted to get a few games in before the end of the season, but the Mets decided to play it safe and wait for 2015.

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His first test will come against the Nationals and Stephen Strasburg, who had an NL-best 242 strikeouts in 2014, four years removed from reconstructive elbow surgery.

Mets fans are hoping Harvey will have a similar comeback story — or better. The hard-throwing righty started the All-Star Game at Citi Field two years ago, going 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA and 191 strikeouts before the injury put him on the shelf.

“We’re all looking forward to it,” Harvey said. “I’m excited to go back to work.”

Harvey is 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA and 25 strikeouts in three career starts against Washington. His lone win came against Strasburg in April 2013.

He’ll need some help from the Mets’ lineup, which has been much-debated but so far mostly ineffective with four runs on 11 hits in New York’s first two games.

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The Mets (1-1) are expected to limit Harvey to around 90 pitches in the series finale.