|Harvey warms up before live batting practice in Port St. Lucie--his first time facing live hitters since before his injury. Photo: Stephen Guilbert|
Recap: On Monday, March 2nd, I had the pleasure of attending spring training camp in Port St. Lucie. You can read my coverage of Curtis Granderson here and Juan Lagares and Wilmer Flores' batting practice here.
The biggest buzz of the day came when Matt Harvey took the mound for his warmup and live batting practice against Met hitters.
Harvey began warming up in a small bullpen-like area between two of the practice fields around 11. Before he even got to the mound to kick the dirt around, the entire fence was packed with fans, myself included. Everyone had a phone or a camera in their hand for Harvey's pitches.
He threw a full warm-up, mostly to Travis d'Arnaud who seems to have developed a solid pitcher-catcher relationship with Harvey already. While minimal, the gestures saying "Let's keep that pitch down" or "That's it right there, nice job" were clear. While Harvey has seldom thrown to d'Arnaud in his major league career, he will have to continue to develop a strong, symbiotic and effective relationship with him for each of their success. From this short bullpen, they seem to be well on their way.
To me, Harvey seemed, for lack of a better word, uncomfortable. Not "uncomfortable" in the way Johan Santana looked uncomfortable in a spring training that led to a season of disappointment and regression but uncomfortable in the sense that things weren't exactly right to him. They weren't perfect. And Harvey wants them to be perfect. The rest of his outing is well documented--he threw very well. He evidently developed a curveball. The coaches were impressed. Met hitters were impressed. But to Harvey, he wasn't perfect. And he wants to be perfect.
Side note: d'Arnaud never seems to not be in pitch-framing mode. Even in this short warmup to a bullpen session, d'Arnaud was moving that glove around like a painter on a canvas. I am not sure he is even aware of it or not but even when the pitch is well out of the strike zone, his glove ends up as if it were.
|RHP prospect Noah Syndergaard works up a sweat during his bullpen on Monday. Photo: Stephen Guilbert|
To say that most of the fans who were at spring training on Monday watched Harvey's warmup in the bullpen area would be an understatement. They were all there and no one moved a muscle when Syndergaard took the hill after Harvey. And, dare I say it, he stole the show from Harvey. Matt Harvey's fastballs certainly had zip and made a serious pop in d'Arnaud's glove. If the hiss on Harvey's fastball had the audible equivalent to a house cat, Syndergaard's were from an angry rattlesnake. His fastball was heavy, lively, and came with serious velocity--the sort of velocity fans drool over and the kind that makes coaches shake their head in disbelief.
One interesting moment came when Syndergaard missed his spot on a warm-up pitch. He let out a rather audible "fuck" to the cautious amusement of some fans watching him throw. While it was a slightly uncomfortable (or perhaps humorous, to some) moment, it illustrated how hard Syndergaard is on himself. The pitch was not an egregious miss--rather, it missed in the equivalent to the opposite batter's box. It's a pitch that would have resulted in the batter shuffling his feet to get out of the way, or perhaps it grazed him on the shins. It was not a bounced pitch or one that sailed over his catcher's head--it just missed the spot. One thing Syndergaard seems to have in common with Harvey is that he is his own biggest critic.
Tomorrow, Mack will schedule the rest of my coverage of spring training from early this week on Port St. Lucie. Stay tuned for reports on David Wright, Cesar Puello, Brandon Nimmo, Hansel Robles, Ruben Tejada, and more.