Harvey eager to make up for lost time

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- New York Mets third-base prospect Eric Campbell faced a 15-year-old Matt Harvey in Connecticut high school baseball during the right-hander's freshman year. Four years later, he faced Harvey again, in Atlantic Coast Conference action, when Campbell was a junior at Boston College and Harvey was a freshman at North Carolina.

"He was definitely the best pitcher in the [high school] conference as a freshman already," said Campbell, who hails from Norwich. "He's always had a good curveball. That's the one thing I remember about high school. And then in college, he developed a good changeup. It just made him better."

Harvey, now 22, reported for duty at the Mets' minor league complex Thursday as part of an invite-only camp for the organization's top prospects in advance of the general March 5 reporting date for minor leaguers.

The seventh overall pick in last year's draft, Harvey received a $2.525 million signing bonus from the Mets, but the prolonged negotiations went right to the Aug. 16 deadline and Harvey has yet to throw a professional pitch in a game.

He did participate in the Mets' fall instructional league in Fort Myers, Fla., but that experience was cut short before he pitched a professional inning so that he could return home because of a death in his family.

"It was a long process during the signing," said Harvey, who graduated from Fitch High School in Groton. "I didn't necessarily want to sign as late as I did, but it's just what happened. And, unfortunately, by then the season was pretty much almost over. I just used the offseason to get ready and prepared."

Harvey spent most of his winter training at his alma mater, although he found it quite chilly there, too. He still threw bullpen sessions and faced hitters.

Harvey's fastball sits between 91 and 95 mph and tops out at 97 mph.

"I only saw him throw in the bullpen at the end of the instructional league," said manager Terry Collins, who oversaw the minor leagues last season. "He had a death in the family, so we sent him home. He was only going to pitch an inning out there anyway.

"I saw an outstanding arm. I saw plus stuff on probably one of the ideal pitcher's bodies -- 6-foot-4, strong. A great makeup guy. When he first came in, I sat and talked with him for 35 minutes. [He has] a great approach to pitching. He has a plan. I can't wait to see him compete."

Harvey said he quizzed Daniel Murphy a lot during the instructional league about how to approach professional hitters. Murphy was in the instructional league with players with far less professional experience because he was learning second base.

"In instructs I was with Terry quite a bit, and I talked to Daniel Murphy quite a bit about what to throw to hitters and certain things like that," Harvey said. "I'd say, hitting-wise, he was definitely the one who helped me out the most."

Had Harvey signed quickly after the June draft, he probably would have been in major league camp this spring training and perhaps knocking on the door for the majors at some point later this season. Now, he could throw his first professional pitch in April for Class A St. Lucie, although the Mets' staff is noncommittal.

"I feel like every player's dream is to play in the big leagues," Harvey said. "It's a learning process, and I'm going to do everything I possibly can on and off the field from guys who have been here and the coaches that are here. I'm just going to do everything I can to do what's possible."