MLB.com Columnist

Barry M. Bloom

Collins hopes Harvey can begin turning season around

Mets skipper still believes things will get better for right-hander

Collins hopes Harvey can begin turning season around

NEW YORK -- Though Mets manager Terry Collins seems to still have confidence in him, there's no question that Matt Harvey is on the hot seat for Monday's Memorial Day start against the White Sox at Citi Field.

The Mets right-hander has lost four of his last five starts, including three in a row, a three-game span in which he's allowed 19 runs (16 earned) on 27 hits in 13 2/3 innings for a 10.54 ERA.

Collins said Harvey is healthy, in full recovery mode from the Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss the entire 2014 season. But he couldn't say what lies ahead for the "Dark Knight" if he continues falling.

"I can't answer that," Collins said prior to facing the tough task of Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers on Sunday night. "All I know is that he's pitching tomorrow."

At this point, what's the alternative?

"We've discussed every possible scenario and way to deal with it," Collins said. "We've talked about disabling him. But you have to have a reason. If he's physically OK, you just can't make up something. We've talked about giving him some time, sending him down, but we've got to get this guy to perform here. All that stuff has been discussed. We've just got to ring the rag dry here.

"This is not just a Triple-A guy who's here for a tryout. This is a guy who started an All-Star Game a couple of years ago so I think we've got to push a little farther."

To characterize Collins as worried would be an understatement. The Mets could still repeat as champions of the National League and go back to the World Series, but the path is going to be that much tougher without Harvey pitching at his accustomed level.

And Collins has faith that will eventually happen.

"I do believe as we continue that Matt's going to get better," Collins said. "If this was something that we thought was physical, I'd say, 'Hey, he's going to have a tough time.' But I think he's going to bounce back. I told Matt that a year ago we were all concerned that his velocity wasn't there, that his slider wasn't there. By mid-summer it was there. I still think the same thing's going to happen this year."

The question is when?

Harvey's just not the pitcher who threw 216 innings last year between the regular season and playoffs, including pitching into the ninth inning of Game 5 of the World Series with a 2-0 lead against Kansas City before the Mets lost the game and series in 12 innings.

What's transpired since then?

Collins said there's a lot of mental stress on Harvey because of that work load coming back from such serious elbow ligament replacement surgery. There was also the matter of a blood clot Harvey developed in his bladder this past Spring Training that also set him back.

"He pitched later in the year than he ever has before and with great effort," Collins said. "Those are big innings that he pitched last year in October and November. From my experience, your body doesn't bounce back as quickly as you wish it did. Even though you're 27-years old, sometimes it takes a little time. I think that's exactly where Matt's at. I've told him that.

"You've got to just keep working at it and not throw your hands up and think you're not going to find it again. It'll come back because he's physically OK."

The pattern of the last three games has been repetitious. Harvey's fastball velocity is down and hitters are able to get a gauge on him the more they face him. Opponents are hitting .241 against him the first time around the batting order, .301 the second and a whopping .509 the third.

Collins said that the Mets have picked up a mechanical flaw and hesitation in Harvey's delivery as he pitches deeper into games. They've been working on it with him in the bullpen.

"And his sides have been great," Collins reported.

Now, Harvey must mentally adjust and take all this into Monday's critical start.

"I'm hoping he relaxes," Collins said. "I'm hoping he just goes out and pitches like he knows how, just worry about making pitches and not the mechanics of the situation. If you're worried about where your foot's landing or arm angle you're going to have a tough time."

The ball will be securely in Harvey's right hand. There are no pitch counts, no restrictions.

"The White Sox hitters will dictate that," Collins said. "If they don't hit him, he'll pitch as far as he can. If they start to hit him, we'll get him out."

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.