New York Mets pitcher Matt Harvey is expected to make his next start Friday at Milwaukee.
I’d rather it be at Toronto, where the Mariners are headed for a four-game series with a patchwork rotation requiring Pacific Coast League call-ups to overachieve.
“Overachiever” is not an adjective associated with Harvey, an enigmatic talent who apparently majored in drama at the University of North Carolina. His clashes with management have given the Mets many headaches, the most recent of which involved — literally — a headache.
Seems Harvey played a round of golf last Saturday morning, then failed to show up at Citi Field for a baseball game on Saturday night. His absence, sources told FanRag Sports Network, was due to the kind of migraine that can immobilize victims for hours.
Did the pitcher, who was not scheduled to start, alert the team of his condition? Initial reports were unclear. Harvey’s side insisted he did, but the Mets considered him AWOL. The team sent security personnel to his Manhattan apartment late Saturday night, then slapped him with a three-game suspension for violating team rules.
Speaking on Tuesday for the first time about the incident, Harvey provided clarification, if not closure.
“Yes, I was out on Friday night past curfew. I did play golf Saturday morning, and I put myself in a bad place to be ready to show up for a ballgame,” he admitted. “It is my responsibility, and I take full blame for that.”
It’s reasonable to presume the Mets are willing to rid themselves of Harvey, who is drawing $5.175 million from the one-year contract he signed after his injury-riddled 2016 season produced a 4-10 record and 4.86 ERA. It’s also reasonable to presume there are a few general managers anxious to give Harvey a fresh chance in a new home, miles removed from the city that never sleeps.
The Mariners’ Jerry Dipoto should be one of them.
Dipoto is a proponent of buying low, trusting in a struggling player’s potential to be revived by a different environment. Between his undisciplined behavior off the field and his 5.19 ERA on the field — seven homers allowed in 35 innings — Harvey is lower than the 20,000th league under the sea.
But here’s the upside: He’s 28, an ideal age for the bounce-back campaign of a starter whose career ERA stands at a stellar 3.08.
What fortifies the upside is the reality that acquiring Harvey wouldn’t cost the Mariners much more than a few middling prospects. Well, OK, prospects and the more than $4 million owed on his contract this season.
A gamble to be sure, but the Mariners have reached a point where Dipoto needs to gamble. Designated hitter Nelson Cruz turns 37 years old in July. Second baseman Robinson Cano is 34. Starting pitcher Felix Hernandez, who during his 20s defined durability, is now 31 and not so durable.
Within a few weeks, Hernandez and fellow starter James Paxton are expected to return from injuries that put them on the disabled list, and there’s hope Drew Smyly contributes after the All-Star break.
But when three starters are sidelined at the same time, it suggests an abundance of healthy pitchers, with big-league experience, will be necessary for the Mariners to compete through September.
Kudos to Chase De Jong, who pitched the game of his life this past Saturday. Kudos, too, to Dillon Overton and Christian Bergman who combined to keep the Mariners within striking distance of the Rangers in the 4-3 victory that concluded a successful homestand.
De Jong, Overton and Bergman gave all they had to alleviate a short-term bind. Longer term? They’re not obvious answers.
And while it’s possible Matt Harvey isn’t an answer either, he’s a veteran whose poise throughout the 2015 playoffs found Mets fans affectionately referring to his comic-book moniker, “The Dark Knight of Gotham.”
Relocating to the Pacific Northwest would reduce the relevance of that nickname, which is just as well. The Mariners don’t need any Dark Knights. What they need is another pitcher able to start on the not-so-dark nights of the Seattle summer.
Harvey’s candor on Tuesday did not excuse his unprofessional behavior, but the honest explanation — “I was in a bad place to show up for a ballgame” — went a long way, enough to give the Mariners some incentive to put him in a better one.
John McGrath: @TNTMcGrath