PORT ST. LUCIE, Florida — Matt Harvey drew an ovation from the crowd of 100-150 fans and high-fives from teammates after stepping off the mound Friday.
The New York Mets ace threw 43 pitches to David Wright, Michael Cuddyer, Curtis Granderson and Daniel Murphy in his first time facing hitters since elbow-ligament replacement surgery on Oct. 22, 2013. The batters tracked the pitches but didn't swing.
"It was awesome," Harvey said. "Obviously throwing a bullpen on the 10-pack with nine other guys is a different feeling than being out there and facing, basically our core four or whatever you call it. You step in the box and you've got David in there, and it's a good feeling to have that and be back. I couldn't feel better. It was a good day."
Harvey, who last pitched in a major league game on Aug. 24, 2013, primarily threw fastballs but mixed in all of his pitches. Catcher Travis d'Arnaud and manager Terry Collins sounded impressed by Harvey's accuracy and command.
"A couple hitters said, 'Boy, he made some really good pitches,'" Collins said. "The two rightys — David and Cudddyer — he got the ball in on them when he wanted to. There was a lot of positives about his command, because that's going to be the next big challenge. Not just the arm strength, but command of his pitches. Today he showed he's a special guy."
Collins estimated that Harvey's last pitch, a two-seam fastball, was about 94-95 mph. It's a little faster than the Mets would like to see a pitcher throwing during the team's second full-squad workout, but it's understandable considering Harvey.
"I was in compete mode," Harvey said. "I wasn't holding back. It obviously wasn't a playoff game, but things were coming out free and easy and I felt like if we were playing a game or an inter-squad game that's kind of how I was taking today."
Wright said it is hard to draw conclusions and spoke about the big picture for the 25-year-old right-hander.
"I just saw a guy that was happy to be back out there," Wright said. "There's only so much you can tell from 20 pitches in February standing in there just taking pitches, but the biggest thing was it felt like the ball was coming out pretty free, and easy and you could see the smile on his face happy for him happy to get back out there. As a teammate and a friend, I'm happy that he was able to get back out there."
Harvey is scheduled to make his exhibition season debut against Detroit on March 6.
"I'm going to wait until those guys in different color uniforms get in that batter's box," Collins said. "That will be a milestone for him."