NEW YORK -- Throughout the winter and into the spring, Matt Harvey spoke often about being the best. Having already achieved his lifelong goal of reaching the Major Leagues, Harvey talked openly about becoming the best pitcher in baseball as if it were a natural progression.
If he is not there yet, he is close. National League All-Star manager Bruce Bochy provided the latest evidence of that on Monday, naming Harvey his starting pitcher for Tuesday's 84th All-Star Game at Citi Field.
Harvey will be the first Mets pitcher to start an All-Star Game since Dwight Gooden in 1988, the sixth to start one in his home ballpark -- the last being Astros starter Roger Clemens in 2004 -- and the third to make his first All-Star Game start at home. The first two were Carl Hubbell of the New York Giants in 1934 and Esteban Loaiza of the White Sox in 2003.
"It really wouldn't have mattered what city we were playing in with the year that he's had, the impressive numbers that he's put up," Bochy said. "He would have been the starting pitcher."
Harvey wrapped up his first half with a 7-2 record, ranking first in the NL with 147 strikeouts and third with a 2.35 ERA. He missed his final start before the break partially because of a blister that formed on his right index finger during his most recent start. But Harvey, who threw a light bullpen session Sunday, joined Collins in saying he is past that issue.
Collins did not even balk at Bochy's joke of leaving Harvey in for more than 100 pitches -- in an effort to keep his season innings total under control, Harvey will not start again until Sunday.
Most likely he will throw two innings, which will give him ample opportunity to put on a show. And the Mets are interested in seeing it. Boasting a classic power pitcher's arsenal, Harvey has exceeded 100 mph on occasion with his fastball this season, often retaining his typical mid-90s velocity deep into games.
Harvey leads the Majors with an average fastball velocity of 95.7 mph, supplementing that with a high-80s to low-90s slider, a mid-80s changeup and an even slower curve.
"This opportunity is something I've always wanted," Harvey said. "As a kid, you dream of being an All-Star. I never thought I'd ever start an All-Star Game. This is something I'm very thankful for."
That his opportunity comes at Citi Field is a fortunate coincidence for Harvey, who grew up two hours outside the city in coastal Connecticut. Few young players have ever embraced New York City as completely as Harvey, who moved to Manhattan full-time last year after breaking into the big leagues in July.
Spending his winter exploring the city, Harvey befriended several members of the NHL's Rangers and began dating a supermodel. Within a year of his Major League debut, Harvey had developed into an A-list celebrity.
That is why starting the All-Star Game in front of his hometown crowd, including family and friends, meant so much to him.
"I know he wanted this very bad," Collins said. "I can tell you he wanted this game desperately. He deserves to be out there. I wish he would have his 12 wins. He doesn't. But it doesn't mean he shouldn't be on the mound."
Harvey's main competition for the honor, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, was curt with reporters when told that Bochy said he would have chosen Harvey no matter the setting. And Kershaw does have a legitimate case, leading the NL with a 1.98 ERA while ranking second behind Harvey with 139 strikeouts.
But if there was any doubt in Bochy's mind, the New York backdrop erased it.
"As a kid growing up in Connecticut, you go to those games and you want to be there and be one of those guys," Harvey said. "It's something I'm tremendously thankful for. It's in New York, my first All-Star Game, my family [and] friends are going to be here. I'm definitely keeping my eyes and ears open, and trying to absorb as much as I can."
Harvey's only other priority will be to put on a show.
"He handles everything great," Collins said. "He's a young player, but he's got a veteran mentality. He'll grasp this and he'll walk out there and give it all he's got."