CINCINNATI — After two years of battling his body, Matt Harvey has come to a realization: throwing hard isn’t pitching. The Mets righthander will make his return to the mound on Saturday against the Astros at Minute Maid Park in Houston keeping that in mind after several minor league rehab starts where his fastball has topped out at 93 mph.
“I think everybody is so worried about velocity. It’s about getting hitters out, that’s the biggest thing,” Harvey said Wednesday after throwing a bullpen. “If I can go out there and be healthy and get people out that’s the most important thing. I feel like I’ve been around long enough and been injured long enough to realize velocity isn’t the biggest thing. Getting people out and being healthy is the most important thing.
“I am not worried about where that’s going to be, once you get some adrenaline going, get a professional hitter in there, things will start working the way you want to,” Harvey said. “If I’m keeping the mechanics the way I want to, the velocity will be there.”
It has been a fleeting thing for Harvey this season, beginning in spring training when there were constant questions as his fastball topped out at 94 mph.
While the Mets said it was not a concern, they went so far as to disable the radar gun on the scoreboard at home when he pitched.
Once the season starter, his fastball averaged 94 mph, according to BrooksBaseball.net and it jumped to an average of 95 in May before dropping off to 93 in June. That was just before he was shut down with what the team called a “stress reaction” in the scapula bone of his right shoulder, but what he admitted was shoulder weakness after Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery.
In 2013, his All-Star season before being shut down to have Tommy John surgery, Harvey’s fastball sat between 96 and 97 miles an hour. Terry Collins doesn’t think he needs to recover that.
“I think he can be fine at 93, 94 miles an hour,” the Mets manager said. “He’ll get a little jump when he gets back on a big league mound, but Matt knows how to use his pitches. He can work with that.”
The main concern for the Mets is that he is able to get results and Harvey has struggled with that too this season. He heads into Saturday’s start 4-3 with a 5.25 ERA in 13 starts. Not only is that the highest ERA of his parts of six years in the big leagues, he also has a career-high 4.5 walk rate per nine innings and a career-low 6.9 strikeout per nine rate.
Harvey, however, is confident that he can get back on track if he can stay healthy.
He has battled through major surgery and said he has not felt this good physically since 2015. He was shut down in June 2016 when he continued to lose feeling in his fingers. He was diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome and had season-ending surgery that month. That surgery removed a rib and cut through several muscles in his neck and shoulder, which did not bounce back as quickly as he had hoped this season.
Now, after strengthening the shoulder and slowly working his way back since going on the disabled list this June, Harvey is feeling stronger and able to bounce back after starts.
“I think being healthy is being the biggest part, finally coming back and not having any issues between an outing and a bullpen session, not getting sore, that’s the biggest thing,” Harvey said. “If I can get five or six solid starts in. Feel strong and healthy going into each start and go into the offseason strong and healthy. That’s the biggest thing.”
Dan Warthen watched Harvey’s bullpen Wednesday and said it was one of his best.
“The ball is coming out of his hand good, he’s repeating his mechanics,” Warthen said. “I am not worried about his velocity. That will jump up with the adrenaline of getting back here. He’s ready to go.”
Harvey will return Saturday looking to focus on staying healthy and getting outs. How hard he throws will not be his concern.