From a Front Row Seat, Scott Boras Notes Matt Harvey’s Struggles


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Matt Harvey of the Mets after giving up a solo home run to the Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez on Saturday at Dodger Stadium.

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LOS ANGELES — As Matt Harvey took the mound Saturday, Scott Boras, his agent, was positioned in his usual seat at Dodger Stadium, at the end of the first row just to the left of home plate. He took out a yellow legal pad and began making intricate markings that looked like math equations. He tracked every pitch, noting its velocity, its type and the result.

“It’s my own concoction, of course,” Boras said.

Boras calls it the Pitchers Pad. It helps him track a pitcher’s every move, and on Saturday he had a certain reason to pay close attention to Harvey. A few weeks ago, Harvey started to feel the effects of recovering from the elbow ligament reconstruction, or Tommy John surgery, he had in October 2013. His velocity was back to its usual mid-90s, but his results were less consistent. The Mets labeled it Tommy John “hangover.” Harvey followed that stretch with three dominant starts, but Boras was still curious about his client.

Boras followed every pitch like a fan, mildly cheering every strikeout and groaning with every run, as Harvey threw five innings and allowed seven hits and three runs in a 4-3 loss to the Dodgers. As much as Boras was there to evaluate, he wanted to offer emotional support, too.

Boras was in Miami two days earlier for Jose Fernandez’s first game after the same operation, and he was in Washington in April for Harvey’s first game this season.

“The thing about Matt’s first outing in Washington, he was almost too strong,” Boras said. “I saw Fernandez pitch, and I’m going, ohhhh. He’s throwing 97, 98. I’m going, oh man. The relief is you know it’s there again. You just kind of want him to kind of titrate it in, through the process. You also know that once you have this, that’s not going to be there every day.

“Remember, Matt had 17 months off. So he’ll throw 160, 170 innings. But they’re really back to themselves the next season, because then they’re going to throw their 190, 200 and be more in the state of what they were before they were hurt. That first time around, we see broad fluctuations, where they really have the power, then they don’t have it, then it comes back. That first year, they’re redeveloping the model of what they’re going to be.”

On the surface, not much might seem amiss: Through 16 starts, Harvey has compiled a 3.11 E.R.A., yet his strategy has shifted. He does not chase flashy strikeouts as much. He pitches more to contact now, in an effort to last deeper into games on fewer pitches.

The Mets have done all they can to keep Harvey fresh. They are mindful of giving him a day off here and there. They even went to a six-man rotation to limit his innings. But the same problems that affect all pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery have plagued Harvey. He is more prone to losing his command. He appears to tire more as games wear on. Manager Terry Collins has suggested that Harvey’s fastball still lacks the same flair, the “late, last pop” he had two years ago.

“It’s mental,” Boras said. “The day will come when you don’t think about it. The day will come. I don’t know exactly when that is. But I know pitchers will tell you about it.”

A few weeks ago, during a stretch in which he allowed 20 runs in four games, Boras flew to New York and took Harvey to dinner. He said that he had told him to be patient, that the way his body felt throwing the ball now was new to him. Boras reminded him that the recovery process took time and that his command would eventually improve.

“I want you to be competitive,” Boras said he had told him. “But I want you to be constructively competitive.”

In other words, go easy on yourself.

That is not Harvey’s nature, though. He was impatient during the rehabilitation process, especially at first. At one point Saturday, during a stressful inning, his nose started to bleed. Boras called him “grindingly demanding,” a trait that he said “the great ones often have.” Boras also called pitches Harvey would retire batters on. He announced his velocity with great pride. “Give me it!” Boras exclaimed after one particularly nasty slider.

Boras could concentrate completely on the game, because two of his right-hand men, Mike Fiore and Luis Garcia, were seated a few feet to his right, handling all of his other pressing business. Garcia had an iPad tuned to another game, featuring another client. They were both glued to their phones, in case a general manager called or texted. They received emails every 30 minutes, updating them on how every client was performing, minor leaguers included.

For one day at least, Boras was a Mets fan, and so, watching the Mets’ offense struggle against Zack Greinke, he could not help but gush about another client of his, Michael Conforto, the 2014 first-round pick whom the Mets have already discussed promoting.

“Michael Conforto can hit at any level,” Boras said. “He’s got bat speed galore. It’s just really a matter of experience he’s going to require to get up there and do that.”

The Mets had still not scored by the fifth inning, when Harvey’s pitch count crept into the 80s and Boras started noticing subtle signs that he was growing fatigued. Harvey left a few fastballs high. He threw fewer first-pitch strikes. Then the Dodgers slugger Adrian Gonzalez ripped an arcing home run into the right-field seats, and Boras cursed. When Harvey allowed a single to the next batter, Boras quietly scratched his head. When Alberto Callaspo singled home another run, Boras cursed again.

Clearly laboring, Harvey then walked Jimmy Rollins on six pitches, and Boras stayed mostly quiet, until Harvey retired Zack Greinke, the opposing pitcher, to end the inning.

“See, he’s at 96 after 100 pitches,” Boras said, a reference to Harvey’s maintaining his velocity. “That’s the good news. His ability, the capacity, is there. But five walks? It’s the command that’s missing.”

Harvey’s day was done, so Boras fetched a cup of tea. When he returned, he put down his pad and slid comfortably into his seat, now with far less invested in the game.



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