Matt Harvey to start Thursday

NEW YORK -- Heralded New York Mets pitching prospect Matt Harvey will debut Thursday in a start against the Arizona Diamondbacks, the team announced.

He will be in New York on Monday and will be activated Tuesday.

Harvey, 23, is 7-5 with a 3.68 ERA for Triple-A Buffalo and has 112 strikeouts in 110 innings. He was the team's first-round pick in the 2010 draft and will replace Miguel Batista, who was designated for assignment Sunday, in the rotation.

Thursday's scheduled start in Phoenix comes during a time when Harvey's name has been linked to all vacancies in the Mets rotation. The right-hander had been one of the candidates to start Saturday's game against the Dodgers, but the team decided to go with Batista. Mets general manger Sandy Alderson said prior to the start that the team didn't feel it was the right time for the youngster to make his debut.

"I've said on more than one occasion that his development and future are independent of our needs in 2012," Alderson said last Tuesday. "He's pitched very well. He pitched well last night. We expect he will pitch well as he continues his season in Buffalo. I think it's more likely than not that he will pitch in New York sometime this season. It just won't be Saturday in Citi Field. It could be shortly after that. It could be some time after that. It really is a function of him and his situation. We want to make sure that when he starts his major league career, it's an auspicious start and that, as I've said before, it is independent of issues that exist at the major league level."

Less than a week later, Harvey is getting the call to help shore up a beleaguered Mets rotation that has lost Johan Santana and Dillon Gee to injuries recently. The Mets already have recalled Jeremy Hefner, who will start Wednesday against the Nationals.

Thursday lines up with Harvey's pitching schedule. He last started in the minors Saturday, allowing six runs and seven hits in five innings, and Buffalo manager Wally Backman told Mets counterpart Terry Collins afterward that he believed Harvey had his head in New York, not in Buffalo. Collins said earlier Sunday the Mets wouldn't use that start in evaluating whether to promote Harvey.

"You got to throw those starts out. Part of the whole thing is being here in New York where everything is a story," Collins said. "The Matt Harveys become the story. He's not naive enough to know people are there, people are talking about it in Buffalo. You're the guy. You're going to the next guy. Well, he may be or he may not be. As a young guy trying to get to the big leagues you certainly understand why that focus is going in different directions right now."

Harvey's start in Arizona will kick off an 11-game road stretch for the team. Before his team's 8-3 loss in 12 innings to the Dodgers on Sunday, Collins said he had no preference on whether Harvey would make his first start in Flushing or on the road, although he did talk up the Mets home.

"I don't think it really affects him. When we talked about this before, I said, 'What a great place to be a pitcher and come pitch here.' It's a perfect pitchers' park. It's fair," Collins said about spacious Citi Field. "Not a place where you hit the ball out of the ballpark easily. It's a fair ballpark. It didn't matter to me. When the time comes, it will be because he's the guy."

In his two seasons in the minors, Harvey is 20-10 with a 3.48 ERA. He's struck out 268 batters in 245 2/3 innings and yielded less than a hit per inning. He was 13-5 spanning Class A and Double-A in 2011, and pitched for North Carolina in college.

Matt Ehalt is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.