Ex-UNC pitcher Matt Harvey follows the footsteps of Seaver and Gooden

The New York TimesJuly 15, 2013 

Nationals Mets Baseball

New York Mets starting pitcher Matt Harvey follows through in the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals in New York, Friday, June 28, 2013.


— When the New York Mets cited a blister and a rising innings count as their reasons for manipulating Matt Harvey’s pitching schedule, the hope was that their showpiece pitcher would still be able to start the showcase event, the 84th All-Star Game, at their home stadium.

Every time Harvey has taken the mound for the Mets, it has been a special day, but perhaps never more so than Tuesday, when he will be the starting pitcher for the National League, at Citi Field.

Bruce Bochy, the manager of the NL team, announced Monday that Harvey would start in the second All-Star Game hosted by the Mets, and the first at Citi Field.

Mets manager Terry Collins said Harvey was likely to throw two innings, if all goes well.

He will face the 13-game winner Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers in a game that will decide home-field advantage for October’s World Series.

The Mets chose not to have Harvey make his last scheduled start in Pittsburgh in a game that theoretically could affect a pennant race. But they thought he was ready to throw an inning or two in a game that could help project his rising star across the baseball world.

“It’s not an exhibition game for Matt Harvey tomorrow, you can bet on that,” Collins, a coach on Bochy’s staff, said. “He’s bound and determined to be the best. That’s all he ever talks about. This is just another step so that he shows everyone that’s going to be here tomorrow and everyone watching on TV that he’s as good as there is.”

Harvey, an All-Star only 355 days after making his major league debut, will become the third Mets pitcher to start an All-Star Game, following in the steps of Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden, two aces to whom he has been compared.

Harvey arrives at the All-Star break with a 7-2 record and a 2.35 earned run average, with 147 strikeouts in 130 innings. He earned the starting honor over Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who might have earned the start in another city with his 8-6 record and major-league-low 1.98 ERA.

But Bochy said that Harvey’s numbers would merit the start in any park. That did not sit well with Kershaw.

“That’s his opinion,” Kershaw said.

There was no justification required when American League manager Jim Leyland introduced Scherzer, his own pitcher with the Tigers, and mentioned his 13-1 record and 3.19 ERA.

“I don’t think I need to explain anything more than that,” Leyland said.

Both managers did their best to appease local fans. Bochy inserted David Wright, the Mets’ third baseman, into the lineup as the cleanup hitter, saying that if Wright was the captain of the NL’s home run derby squad Monday night, then cleanup was the only sensible place for him to hit.

Leyland has Robinson Cano, the New York Yankees’ second baseman, batting second. But more important, he promised that Mariano Rivera, who is retiring after his 19th season, would pitch. Rivera is on his 13th All-Star team.

The hope, Leyland said, was to bring Rivera on in a save situation in the ninth. But if that did not materialize, Leyland said he would find a spot for Rivera.

“You can rest assured he will be on the mound at some point, and you will see him pitch,” Leyland said.

Harvey will become the first pitcher to start in his home park since Roger Clemens started for the NL at Houston’s Minute Maid Park in 2004, a game that ended badly for Clemens and his team, which lost, 9-4.

Another pitcher who started in his home stadium was the Boston Red Sox’s Pedro Martinez, who tossed two perfect innings at Fenway Park in 1999, striking out five. Harvey, obviously, would prefer that kind of performance.

“Having the opportunity to take the ball is something I’ll never forget, and I’m very thankful for, especially at home,” Harvey said. “It’s my first All-Star Game and being at home, it’s extremely special and I’m very, very thankful.”

Harvey said he had no more issues with the blister on his right index finger, which Collins said was the worst he had ever seen.

“He ripped the entire skin back,” Collins said. “I mean, it was torn up. And the next day, you didn’t know he even hardly had a blister, because he did exactly what the trainers said to do, how to fix it, how to take care of it. He probably sat there all night taking care of this thing. And the next day, it looked like it hardly bothered him.”

Some of the other stars said Harvey belonged.

“I can’t imagine many pitchers having better stuff than Matt Harvey,” said Joe Votto of the Cincinnati Reds.

St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina compared him to Justin Verlander, the Tigers’ hard-throwing right-hander.

“Yeah, absolutely,” Verlander said, agreeing. “You’re naturally going to draw comparisons. Hard-throwing, and he’s having a great year. I haven’t seen him pitch in person, so I’m excited to see him.”

The Mets and baseball are excited for him to be seen, too.

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