By Ed Coleman
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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (WFAN) — Matt Harvey is probably a little anxious, maybe a bit excited, definitely healthy, fit and surgery-free for a change.
While he may be not filled to the top, there’s still plenty of fuel left in his tank. He said as much during an interview at the Mets’ spring training facility on Thursday.
“I’m 28, 29 years old, ready to go. The ball’s coming out better than it has in a long time,” Harvey said. “Finally having a normal offseason and getting my strength back, there’s no reason that I can’t be better than I was before.”
Mets starter Matt Harvey throws a pitch in the bottom of the first inning against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia on Sept. 29, 2017. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Harvey would like to put 2017 in the rearview mirror as quickly as possible. He ended up 5-7 with a 6.70 ERA, and after shutting things down because of shoulder weakness, came back to make six starts which were basically disastrous.
But a quiet and productive winter has thus far made a huge difference.
“If you’re doing rehab all the time, you’re constantly thinking about that, and not able to do your normal leg workouts or core workouts or running or normal upper body lifts to build mass,” Harvey said. “Your throwing program gets messed up, it becomes tough. When you can get on to a good routine and get your strength training in and also do some prevention stuff, some shoulder strengthening stuff, you really put yourself in a good position to get stronger and continue a good throwing program.”
Manager Mickey Callaway said Harvey had developed some bad habits, which is understandable because due to the surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome and the shoulder weakness that came with it, his lower half was compensating for his upper half, resulting in messy mechanics. He said his doctors enlightened him.
“There were a lot of nerve issues going on, and in order for nerves to heal properly it takes time,” Harvey said. “I was trying to push through those nerve issues and create muscle and it was just making things worse. Mentally that’s tough, doing work in the weight room, trying to do the right thing work-out wise, and not getting any results.
“Having that feeling back, being able to develop muscle, and to do those strength programs to develop mass and get back to where I was before, it was nice to have, to have things back to normal,” he added. “My strength in my right shoulder was really down. Throughout the offseason I was able to rest and let the nerves heal, progressively work into a shoulder strengthening program, and this is the strongest my shoulder has felt in well, maybe ever.”
Does Harvey think the Mets’ rotation can remain intact and healthy for the entire 2018 season?
“I’d like to think so. I hope so,” he said. “For my specific case, there’s a lot I want to prove, a lot I have left to do. If we all think the same thing and do the same thing, we’re going to be pretty successful.”
And Harvey’s biggest motivation to return to form? That’s easy.
“Anytime your manager and your pitching coach are fighting to keep you on the team and have a lot of confidence and faith in you, it’s definitely a confidence booster,” he said. “Having a normal offseason and normal workouts and getting my strength back up, I think that confidence started coming back already. They kind of had the icing on the cake with really fighting to keep me here, and that made me work a little bit harder.”