Matt Harvey turned in an impressive rookie season last year. Now, with heightened expectations and a starting rotation beset by injuries, the New York Mets hope he can be even better.
Harvey will begin his first full season in the majors Wednesday night when he gets the nod against the San Diego Padres at Citi Field.
The seventh overall pick in the 2010 draft, Harvey was promoted to the big leagues last July when the Mets' staff was overcome with attrition. The right-hander responded by posting a 2.73 ERA over 10 starts with 70 strikeouts in 59 1-3 innings. A lack of run support, however, left him with a 3-5 record.
New York will again look to the 24-year-old in 2013, but this time with a starting job out of spring training. And with Johan Santana undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery on Tuesday and Shaun Marcum set to miss his start this weekend because of neck pain, the team is in need of strong pitching.
The Mets got it with Jonathon Niese limiting Pittsburgh to two runs in 6 2-3 innings in Monday's 11-2 opening-day victory. Now they'll look for Harvey to follow Niese's success after a positive spring in which Harvey went 2-1 with a 2.96 ERA over seven starts. He struck out 33 in 27 1-3 innings.
"I just think that the way he pitched in spring training, pounding the strike zone, made people swing the bats, he's going to get easier outs," manager Terry Collins told the team's official website. "I've seen him get deeper into games, and with that I think he's going to win a lot of games."
Harvey will oppose a San Diego lineup that scraped out four hits Monday as it took the field without Chase Headley.
Headley, who hit .286 last season with career highs in home runs (31) and RBIs (115), is expected to miss at least two weeks with a broken thumb suffered during spring training.
The Padres' only runs Monday came from Carlos Quentin's RBI single and a solo homer by Yonder Alonso.
"We just have to be a little more aggressive," said Alonso, who went 2 for 3 with a double and two-run homer off Harvey in a 7-3 win in San Diego on Aug. 5.
Harvey ended up giving up five runs and eight hits in five innings.
On the mound for San Diego will be left-hander Clayton Richard, who matched a career high last season with 14 wins. The Padres could use a strong start after Edinson Volquez's forgettable opening-day performance in which he allowed six runs and didn't escape the fourth inning. Reliever Brad Bach was also hit hard in two-thirds of an inning, yielding four runs and four hits.
"We didn't pitch well at all," manager Bud Black said. "Like I said all spring, you've got to pitch well and we just didn't."
New York received solid offensive contributions in the opener from all three of the new additions to its lineup, with Collin Cowgill, Marlon Byrd and John Buck going a combined 6 for 14 with seven RBIs.
"If I was going to draw it up, this would be about what it looks like and feels like," Buck said of his Mets debut. "It definitely helped me settle in a little easier."
Highly touted Padres prospect Jedd Gyorko made his first big league start at second base, going 1 for 4 with a double.
Richard is 2-1 with a 2.84 ERA in five career starts against the Mets.