Matt Harvey to Make MLB Debut Thursday Against Diamondbacks

By Matt Musico

After the Mets front office and coaching staff decided to keep Matt Harvey at Triple-A and start Miguel Batista Saturday at Citi Field, everyone was wondering how much longer it would be before fans saw New York’s number two prospect in a Big League uniform. Well, the answer is not all that long. Harvey, despite getting hit hard in his last start with Buffalo Saturday night, will be on the taxi squad tomorrow, getting activated Tuesday, and opening up the series against the Arizona Diamondbacks Thursday in Phoenix.

Rumors were flying around that Batista had to be effective to keep his spot in the rotation, and it ended up that he needed to pitch well to stay on the roster. After struggling through three innings, needing 81 pitches, the Mets designated him for assignment to make room for reliever Elvin Ramirez. Terry Collins hopes that the 41-year-old (1-3, 4.82 ERA in ’12) will clear waivers and will accept a ticket to the minors to continue pitching, because the Mets’ skipper feels that he can help the team down the road this season.

While that remains to be seen, it looked almost certain that Harvey would get the call. With Johan Santana being placed on the DL over the weekend, Jeremy Hefner was re-called to join the bullpen, and will now be put into the starting rotation to take Santana’s spot on Wednesday against Washington. So, it was either going to be Harvey or Collin McHugh, who recently was promoted to Triple-A. However, McHugh is still adjusting to life in Buffalo, sporting a 1-3 record, 4.54 ERA, and a 1.35 WHIP in 37.2 innings pitched. Despite having more minor league innings under his belt than Harvey (489.2 IP vs. 245.2 IP), the former UNC Tar Heel seems to be farther along in his development, going 7-5 with a 3.68 ERA in 110 IP this year with the Bisons.

His last start on Saturday by no means warrants a callup (5 IP, 7 hits, 6 runs, 2 BB, 6 Ks), but Harvey is the best option the Mets have right now to take possession of their vacant rotation spot. The most important thing for Harvey will be his control. He currently has a 1.31 WHIP in Triple-A this season and is walking 3.9 hitters per every nine innings, and if he wants to give the Mets six and seven innings consistently, he needs to cut down on that, and it’ll depend on his changeup. He started using a new grip this season and has had success with it, but needs consistency from it to keep opposing hitters off balance. However, his fastball and curveball have been MLB-ready for quite some time now, and he must show confidence in all his pitches throughout various situations in any given game.

In a perfect world, the Mets would not be calling up Matt Harvey to take the ball on Thursday. If Sandy Alderson could have it his way, he would stay in Triple-A for most of 2012, and get a September callup. We’ve seen how pitchers have recently fared by being rushed to the Majors for the Mets (here’s looking at you, Mike Pelfrey and Jenrry Mejia), but Harvey does have plenty of experience when you look at his 245 innings pitched in the minors and combine it with three years of pitching at the University of North Carolina.

Let’s be honest, this team needs a kick in the rearend and they need to put it into high gear. They’ve experienced their worst cold spell at probably the worst time of the year, and they need to prove to their general manager that it’s worth making some moves for a playoff run. It made the most sense to give Harvey the call now because he can get his feet wet in Arizona, and the Mets will be on the West Coast for some time before he has to pitch in front of the home crowd. By then, he will be getting into his own routine and a little more comfortable. Bringing in a young guy with the rookie jitters and enthusiasm that Harvey will bring to the clubhouse is just what they need. A fresh face that hasn’t experienced the last nine games and is ready to inject some life into his teammates. Let’s hope it works.