Matt Harvey will get his wish. He will toe the rubber for the New York Mets when the open the season in Kansas City on April 3. A year ago at this time we were debating whether Harvey should even get the opening day nod in Washington in his first game back coming off Tommy John’s Surgery.
A year ago, Harvey wanted that baseball on this day; he wanted to prove to the Mets and Major League Baseball that he was back from surgery in a big way. Terry Collins' decision turned out to be brilliant. He skipped Harvey on Opening Night, stripping the pageantry of the game away and making him focus on just the game a couple nights later. Plus Bartolo Colon pitched a gem, which helped too.
Now it is Harvey's turn. He goes to the mound with the mentality of not only wanting to prove something, but wanting to dish out his own brand of vengeance.
Vengeance namely against the Royals, the team that denied Harvey a complete game 1-0 shutout in Game 5 of the World Series. Harvey barked and pleaded with Collins to keep him in the game for the ninth inning, and the manager gave in. Harvey went back out for the ninth, and the Royals were ready, knocking him out of the game and tattooing the Mets beleaguered bullpen. The Royals took the World Series away from the Mets on their home turf.
So to say Harvey will be amped up for the start is an understatement. He has never started an opening day in his career. And to get this start against the defending World Series champions adds even more gravitas.
For him this is an opportunity not to only silence last Fall's tormentors, but this is a chance for him once more to wrestle the “ace” label away from Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. Remember this is the same guy who once again floated his contract situation out to the media sharks before Spring Training started. This is the same guy who made sure to plaster his face in every publication possible when he first came up to the Majors. Nobody is more self-aware than Harvey is. He knows the attention will be on him, and he craves it.
Therefore composure and slowing the game down on Opening Night will be key for Harvey in Kansas City. But, nobody has to tell him that. It is easy to psychoanalyze a pitcher from afar. Harvey has pitched in a stage much bigger than this with even higher expectations. He should be able to handle this.
He has wanted this moment his whole career; a chance to pitch the first game of a new year, some five months after pitching the last game of the previous year in the Fall Classic. If he envisions himself as the Mets true ace, and a future $18 million a year pitcher, this is a pelt he has to get.