Harvey to start season opener for Mets

Harvey to start season opener for Mets

PORT ST LUCIE, Fla. -- Matt Harvey glanced to his left, where the locker bank in the Mets' clubhouse houses a cadre of baseball's best pitchers. "Flip a coin," was how David Wright characterized manager Terry Collins' Opening Day starter decision, only appearing to be half-joking. "Terry could have announced anybody," was how Harvey put it.

It is not entirely just politics or ego massaging when the Mets say these sorts of things, that any of their starters could pitch Opening Night against the Royals. Top to bottom, this group has talent. But some semblance of a pecking order does still exist, and -- given the uncertainty regarding Jacob deGrom's availability the first week in April -- Harvey was the Mets' clear choice.

So Collins huddled all five of his starters into his Tradition Field office early Thursday morning, officially naming Harvey his Opening Night pitcher. The last Mets starter to take the mound in 2015 will be the first to do on April 3, against the same team that knocked him out of World Series Game 5.

"It's going to bring back a lot of memories," Harvey said. "But it's also going to bring back a lot of fire."

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The last the Mets saw of Harvey, he was walking off the mound at Citi Field after demanding the ball in the ninth inning of Game 5, ultimately giving up an RBI double to put the game-tying run on base. It stamped a sour ending on what was otherwise a superlative season: a 13-8 record and a 2.71 ERA in his first year back from Tommy John surgery, with his old upper-90s velocity back in tow. Despite controversy over his late-season workload, Harvey wound up making 29 starts plus another four in the postseason, finishing with a career-high 216 innings.

Harvey tabbed for Opening Night

"The way he finished last year, the way he's throwing the ball right now … there's a lot of things that led up to it," Collins said of Harvey's Opening Night assignment.

Chief among them was deGrom's situation. Statistically the Mets' best pitcher last season, deGrom and his wife are expecting their first child right on April 5. He intends to be present when the baby arrives, clouding his availability opening week. If deGrom is available, he is the clear choice for Game 2; if not, Noah Syndergaard becomes likely to start.

In either case, the Mets are considering piggybacking multiple starters in that game, due to a schedule quirk that has them playing just twice in the season's first five days.

"We're blessed with good pitching right now," Collins said. "That first week enables us, no matter what happens, we can certainly cover for each other."

All the Mets know right now is that everything begins with the first of those aces, Harvey. One of the game's best pitchers in 2013, Harvey took a long road back to prominence, winding through an 18-month recovery from Tommy John surgery and the drama of last year's innings limits. But those things are finally in his past. Harvey is the Mets' choice to kick off their National League pennant defense, their grudge match against the Royals and their most-anticipated season in nearly a decade.

"It makes the whole process a little surreal," Harvey said. "Going from missing a whole year to kind of having to re-establish myself and get back to where I needed to be, and now having the honor of leading us off, I couldn't be more proud and happy of the hard work. This organization's given me that opportunity. Like I said, it could have gone to anybody, and I'm definitely grateful for the opportunity."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.