Former all-star pitcher Matt Harvey brings Norfolk Tides a veteran presence as he tries to work his way back to the major leagues, wins doubleheader opener
Matt Harvey has pitched in a World Series and an All-Star Game, and now he’s trying to pitch his way back to the major leagues.
Meanwhile, he’s helping to mentor a roster full of younger teammates.
A former New York Mets star known as the “Dark Knight,” Harvey joined the Norfolk Tides on July 8 after an extended stint at the Baltimore Orioles’ player development complex in Sarasota, Florida.
There, Harvey was serving a 60-game suspension handed down by Major League Baseball for his role in the scandal that led to the 2019 death of then-Los Angeles Angels teammate Tyler Skaggs.
A 33-year-old former star for the University of North Carolina, Harvey is prohibited by the Orioles from speaking with the media. But his new teammates are glad to have him around.
“It’s awesome,” said Robert Neustrom, a 25-year-old outfielder. “I can remember watching him growing up, looking up to his greatness as a pitcher and the way he pitches with confidence. It’s cool. It’s cool to be around.”
In his first start since joining the Tides, Harvey held Jacksonville to a pair of earned runs in 5⅔ innings. He was even better in his second start, gaining a seven-inning, complete-game 2-1 victory Thursday over the Worcester WooSox in Game 1 of a doubleheader.
He threw a five-hitter, striking out five and walking three, to drop his Tides ERA to 2.13. Christin Stewart hit a home run in the fourth inning for the only damage off Harvey.
Tides manager Buck Britton, who got to know Harvey some last season, said he’s not judging the right-hander on anything beyond what he’s seen firsthand.
“I kind of stay away from that side of it,” Britton said. “Everybody knows kind of what he’s been through. But I can only speak for the man that I’ve known from last year and here, and he’s been really good. He’s really good for these young guys. He’s a professional. He’s been there. He’s been in a World Series. He knows what it takes, and he’s been excellent here.”
Harvey, a Connecticut native, achieved national prominence in 2013, when he went 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA for the Mets and earned an All-Star bid.
He made two starts for New York in the 2015 World Series, which the Mets lost to the Kansas City Royals, before stints with the Cincinnati Reds, the Angels, the Royals and, last season, the Orioles.
Harvey was suspended in May after admitting in court to distributing a prohibited drug of abuse, in violation of MLB’s drug program.
Britton’s characterization of Harvey’s clubhouse presence came as no surprise to Matt Blood, Baltimore’s director of player development.
“He’s an established, very mature major league player who has been around a lot of clubhouses and understands what it means to be a good teammate,” Blood said. “He’s been nothing but that since he’s been here. I think he’s been a nice influence on everyone and a joy to be around.”
As for what Harvey, who went 6-14 with a 6.27 ERA in 28 starts for the Orioles last season, might have left in the tank, Britton was encouraged by his first start.
“The ball was coming out of his hands all right,” Britton said. “I think there’s some mechanical things that maybe there’s some more (velocity) in there. But this is a guy, he knows how to pitch, and I think you’re going to see his weapons tick up. Hopefully, he gets another opportunity to go up to the big leagues and contribute.”
In the meantime, Harvey will continue to pitch in Norfolk’s rotation and awe his youthful teammates with what he’s already accomplished through nine major league seasons.
Triple-A teams typically have a handful of accomplished big league veterans on their rosters, but Norfolk is exceptionally young this season. It’s part of what makes Harvey’s presence such a novelty.
“He’s respected everybody in the clubhouse, and everybody respects him,” Neustrom said. “It’s good to have a guy like that around, someone who’s kind of seen the top of the game — celebrity status, All-Star, stuff like that. It’s cool to be around.”
David Hall, firstname.lastname@example.org