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How Mets fans should view Matt Harvey’s return to Citi Field

If Brandon Hyde doesn’t quite qualify for “grizzled baseball man” status, then the Orioles’ manager, 47, has seen and done enough stuff to earn a perspective. To merit respect for his memories of Oct. 17, 2015 here at Citi Field.

“I just remember when Matt came out of the bullpen before first pitch, and … they had the Dark Knight thing going, and the whole crowd just went bananas,” Hyde, then the Cubs’ first-base coach, said Tuesday afternoon before the Mets’ 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Orioles. “It was about 30 degrees. Probably one of the loudest stadiums I’ve ever heard at that moment, just how loud they were when he was exiting the bullpen to come to the dugout to throw the first pitch.

“He’s had a lot of cool moments here, and that was fun to witness. He pitched really well against us that night.”

You know that Hyde is referring to Matt Harvey, now pitching for him in an Orioles uniform, who will mark a career first on Wednesday: First time pitching at Citi as an opponent.

At one point, you would’ve forecast that to occur during a Subway Series, with Harvey performing for his childhood-favorite Yankees and collecting a Gerrit Cole-esque $1.125 million or so per start. That point, however, happened a long time ago. Harvey has been an ex-Met for over three years and is working for his fifth organization; one of those, the A’s in 2019, never even promoted him to the big leagues.

Matt Harvey
Matt Harvey
Getty Images

Yet when the former superhero takes the mound Wednesday, surely to a boisterous partial audience, here’s hoping that Mets fans don’t look at him and ponder what could have been. Instead, they should appreciate what they had.

“It’s got to be exciting for him to be back here and pitch,” said Luis Rojas, who managed Harvey for two rehabilitation starts at Double-A Binghamton in 2017.

Said Hyde: “Matt’s so even-keeled and level-headed that it’s hard to tell how up or down he is, ever. He’s just professional. I know he’s looking forward to it, though.”

“Even-keeled” would not apply to Harvey from 2015, although he has been through a lot since then. With the Orioles, he owns a 3.60 ERA in seven starts, tallying 10 walks and 25 strikeouts over 35 innings and neutralizing that modest bat-missing total by keeping the ball in the yard, with only three homers on his ledger. That reflects a returned reliance on his sinker, which he barely threw the prior two seasons. Said Hyde: “It’s been a nice weapon for him.”

His four-seam fastball averages 93.3 miles per hour, a sizable drop from the 95.9 he averaged in ’15 (thanks, Baseball Savant and FanGraphs). His peak lasted essentially three seasons: His rookie campaign in 2012, his ferocious 2013 before he went down in August needing Tommy John surgery and his triumphant return in 2015, culminating in that fantastic start in the NLCS opener (two runs, four hits, two walks and nine strikeouts in 7 ²/₃ innings) before his memorable inability to finish off the Royals in World Series Game 5 marked the de facto end to his dominant run. The serious injuries ensued, which rendered the off-the-field hijinks less tolerable.

Hey, given how poorly Harvey has pitched since leaving the Mets, a 5.38 ERA in 234 ¹/₃ innings, it’s a triumph just to make it back here. To draw the ovation from those who will thank him for Harvey Day and the playoff success and probably even the Page Six stories. If his peak didn’t last long, he never bored us.

“It’s been all positives so far,” Hyde said of Harvey’s time with the O’s. His Mets time proved more of a roller coaster, the thrills and the plummets all unforgettable. You’ll get to relive the whole ride for a moment Wednesday. Surely you won’t regret any of it.

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