LOS ANGELES -- The start of Matt Harvey's time with the Cincinnati Reds, and the beginning of what he hopes is a revival to his once-promising career, will come in a road start against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night.
Harvey met his new teammates on Thursday, two days after the Reds acquired him from the New York Mets for catcher Devin Mesoraco. The 29-year-old right-hander will take the mound for Game 2 of a four-game series at Dodger Stadium, but will be limited to only a handful of innings while he gets his arm back into shape.
Harvey, arguably baseball's best pitcher for a brief moment in time, called these tumultuous past three years "a roller coaster" that was "really tough mentally at times."
"At times there were some pretty negative thoughts about where my career was," he said. "But I think fighting through that and throwing the ball the way I have been, in bullpens and in between outings -- it's in there. It just needs to come out. I just need to relax and let it happen."
The No. 7 overall pick in a star-studded 2010 draft that also included Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Chris Sale and Noah Syndergaard, Harvey burst onto the scene with an impressive 10-start stretch in 2012, then rose to stardom the following season. He started the All-Star Game in his home stadium of Citi Field, finished fourth in National League Cy Young Award voting and along the way was hailed as "The Dark Knight," a moniker he embraced.
Harvey succumbed to Tommy John surgery in October of 2013, missed the ensuing season, then returned to dominance in 2015, pitching deep into October despite stated preferences to restrict his innings with a reconstructed elbow.
His performance against the Kansas City Royals in Game 5 of the World Series -- eight shutout innings before helping to give up the lead, then watching his season vanish shortly thereafter -- is a height that still eludes him.
Harvey's 2016 season began with diminished velocity and ended with surgery to repair thoracic outlet syndrome, a procedure that has proved exceedingly troublesome for pitchers. He struggled again in 2017, a year shortened by a stress fracture in his shoulder. This season (0-2 with a 7.00 ERA as a Met) has been a disaster.
Harvey posted a 2.53 ERA in 427 innings from 2012 to 2015, but has collected a 5.93 ERA in 212 1/3 innings over these last three years.
"There's a lot of good memories, there's a lot of bad memories," Harvey said of his time with the Mets. "After today, I would like to not talk about my past experiences with the Mets. I'd like to move forward with my new organization and do everything I can to help them. But overall, there was a lot of good times. I have a lot of good friends on that team and will for a long time. I obviously wasn't able to perform the way I wanted to and the way I was expecting to, so, fresh start, I guess you could say, is a nice thing. And I'm looking forward to my opportunity."
Harvey was a tabloid fixture with the Mets. He sparred with the team over his desire to rehab from surgery in New York City, was handed a three-game suspension for failing to show up to the ballpark the night before a scheduled start and was recently scolded by the New York Post for "partying in L.A." the night before a shaky outing.
Still, Harvey dismissed the notion that getting out of New York would be good for him.
"I had a lot of people say that that was the best thing," he said, "but I think just pitching is what's important. Obviously I've had a lot of success in New York and I've had not so much success. Regardless of where you are, it's still pitching and performing. It's still Major League Baseball. You still have to get hitters out."
Harvey described his health as "great" and felt like he was slowly getting back to where he wanted to be as this season progressed, even though the numbers -- 21 runs on 33 hits and nine walks in 27 innings -- didn't support his claim.
Harvey was working out at the Newport Beach, California, facility owned by his agent, Scott Boras, when he was told that he had been dealt to the last-place Reds, who have lost 27 of their first 37 games and sport the game's fourth-worst ERA.
He spoke with Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman on the phone shortly after the trade and met his new teammates a little less than four hours before Thursday's first pitch, going through stretches along the right-field line while chatting with interim pitching coach Danny Darwin.
Harvey is taking the rotation spot of a struggling Brandon Finnegan, who has been optioned to Triple-A Louisville. The Reds, Riggleman said, want to limit Harvey to possibly no more than four innings because he has thrown "a few" extended bullpen sessions since being designated for assignment by the Mets, including one on Tuesday.
Harvey's average fastball velocity has gone from close to 97 mph in 2015 to a shade over 93 mph in 2018. His slider remains a solid pitch, but his curveball and his changeup have been unreliable. Riggleman called him "a work in progress."
Harvey's first thought upon being dealt to the Reds was of his time playing for an amateur baseball program in Midland, Ohio, shortly after high school, when everything seemed so much simpler.
He hopes to tap back into that mindset.
"I'm excited to help this team any way I can," Harvey said, "and I'm excited to get the ball."