Matt Harvey will pitch in the playoffs, but the Mets have to get him there sharp and prepared
As is the case now whenever Matt Harvey has an upcoming start, the spotlight shifts away from Harvey the competitor to Harvey and his innings limit.
He currently has 171 2/3 innings under his belt. He has amassed a total of 23 2/3 innings since August 16 thanks to two skipped starts filled nicely by Logan Verrett.
Harvey has a 4.56 ERA in his last four starts thanks in part to an ineffective showing against the Nationals on September 8, the last time he toed the rubber.
But he will start on Sunday night against the Yankees after a 12 day layoff. How long will he last?
“We’re going to keep a very close eye on him,” Terry Collins said on Wednesday. “The Yankees will decide when he comes out, but it won’t be real deep in the game.”
It doesn’t sound like Harvey will throw less than five innings on Sunday, but he probably won’t throw more than six, depending of course on how well he pitches and how efficient he is on the mound.
The goal for the Mets is to keep Harvey around the 180-inning mark through the end of the regular season, after which his manager said he will be available come October, whether his agent agrees or not.
“He is going to pitch if we get to the postseason,” Collins said. “So now, how do you get to that point? How do you get him into that? Well, we could shut him down right now and we’d have all sorts of innings left in the postseason. The issue is he’s a big factor.”
Yes he is, and the Mets have done everything possible to manage this innings problem for Harvey, only to be met by displeasure and resistance from the pitcher himself – both publicly and privately – each time the Mets have tried to slow him down.
But the situation is what it is now. They have about nine innings to play with in the regular season, and they have to find a way to keep Harvey healthy and sharp ahead of the postseason.
“We think if we pitch him and, yet, don’t go crazy, we not only can get some innings now, which are important to get him ready for the postseason, but also have him available for the postseason,” Collins explained. “So the difficulty of it all is hard. There are a lot of discussions that went into it. What was best, what’s not, what’s going to work, what isn’t?”
What that means is Harvey will likely make one more appearance ahead of the postseason in an effort to keep him sharp. Should the Mets clinch the National League East either in Philadelphia or Cincinnati, they could have Harvey make one more abbreviated start after that – either in Philadelphia or in the final series against the Nationals – which as much as 7-10 days of rest before making a playoff start, depending on when the Mets schedule him into the postseason rotation.
The question, of course, is will Harvey have too much idle time between August and October. Not even Collins and the Mets know the answer to that.
Said Collins, “No one has any answers because I think this is something that’s pretty strange to happen at this time of year to your starting rotation. But we’ve had to deal with it and we will.”