Harvey, Garcia ready to start for Mets, Braves (Apr 06, 2017)

BY AP • April 6, 2017

NEW YORK -- A little over nine months ago, Matt Harvey was booed off the mound by upset portions of New York Mets fans for allowing six runs and 11 hits in 3 2/3 innings against the Miami Marlins.

Three days later, the Mets discovered the cause of Harvey's significant struggles in his third full season -- thoracic outlet syndrome. Harvey underwent surgery for the ailment, which is caused by a compression of the nerves and/or blood vessels somewhere between the neck and armpit.

Now, the Mets hope Harvey is fully recovered. The right-hander makes his first regular-season start since the procedure Thursday night in the rubber game of a three-game series with the Atlanta Braves.

Harvey won't be making his debut in warm weather. The forecast calls for temperatures in the 40s and a possibility of rain.

"I think Matt's ready to pitch in any condition right now," Mets manager Terry Collins said Wednesday. "He just got better and better as the spring went along. To be honest, I'd like to get him out there tomorrow night. I think it's real important that we get these guys in some kind of routine."

Harvey was 4-10 with 4.86 ERA in 17 starts last season. In 2015 after returning from missing the previous season due to Tommy John surgery, he pitched 189 1/3 innings and 26 2/3 more during New York's run to the World Series.

After the lengthy season, Harvey's strikeout rate dipped to 7.38 per nine innings, hitters posted a .320 batting average against him and velocity in his four pitches dipped by over 1 mph.

Velocity was a topic during spring training when Harvey was 0-4 with a 5.89 ERA in five starts. He pitched 18 1/3 innings and in his last spring start on March 26, the velocity was noticeably better as it reached 97 mph.

"Each start, I definitely started feeling much better each time," Harvey said last week. "That was a big step, probably the biggest so far this spring."

New York's starters have tossed 12 scoreless innings so far after Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard pitched six innings apiece. DeGrom took a no-decision Wednesday when Matt Kemp's bases-loaded double with two outs in the 12th inning gave Atlanta a 3-1 win.

Harvey is 2-4 with a 3.61 ERA in seven career starts against the Braves. He also is among the few New York pitchers to experience success against Freddie Freeman.

Freeman is a .315 (130-for-413) career hitter against the Mets, but against Harvey, the first baseman is 3-for-18 with five strikeouts. He is 3-for-9 so far in this series while Kemp is 4-for-9.

Even with the uncertainty of results for a pitcher coming off major surgery, former Mets catcher Anthony Recker still envisions a similar version of the right-hander.

"I know him mentally," said Recker, who was New York's backup catcher from 2013 to 2015. "He goes out there and tries to dominate."

While the Mets are eager about Harvey's return, the Braves are anticipating Jaime Garcia's debut. The longtime St. Louis Cardinals starter was traded to Atlanta last December.

Garcia was 1-1 with a 3.20 ERA in five spring training starts and is coming off consecutive 10-win seasons after being limited to 16 starts in 2013 and 2014 due to injuries, including thoracic outlet surgery in 2014.

"We saw in spring training and I saw it the last few years when I was coaching third that just the ball's cutting and sinking," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. "There's some of those sinkers, he throws that are gone. "I think it's just the key to him he's healthy and feeling good. He's just a good pitcher."

Last season, Garcia was 10-13 with a 4.67 ERA in 32 appearances (30 starts). It was his highest ERA in any full season for Garcia, who was 4-7 with a 5.60 ERA in 15 appearances after the All-Star break in 2016.

Two of those appearances were against the Mets. On July 26 in the second game of a doubleheader at New York, Garcia allowed three runs and five hits in five innings in a 3-1 loss, and Aug. 23 in St. Louis, he yielded six runs and seven hits in seven innings.

Garcia is 2-3 with a 2.66 ERA in seven career starts against the Mets.



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