Mets draft workhorse with their first pick
Club selects Carolina righty Harvey seventh overall
NEW YORK -- In the game that everyone still talks about, Matt Harvey took the mound feeling ill.
"Playing on the road at Clemson is a very tough place to play," he said weeks later. Being sick makes it no easier.
But Harvey is a big, strong right-hander, 6-foot-4 with a freight train for a fastball, possessing all the attributes that led the Mets to select him seventh overall in Monday's First-Year Player Draft. Harvey wanted to pitch -- needed to pitch -- and after a few wobbly innings he again began to feel that trademark strength.
Harvey struck out the side in the sixth, struck out the side in the seventh and by the end of the eighth inning had retired 10 straight Tigers.
What happened next seems almost mythical, the stuff of Carolina legend, but multiple published reports confirm it to be true: With his 157th pitch of the night, Harvey blew a 96-mph fastball past Clemson designated hitter Wilson Boyd.
"It was pretty tough for me to not want to go out for the ninth," Harvey said Monday evening. "I felt strong, so I decided to go back out. It was a big game, so I was pretty fired up and I was able to finish it."
One hundred and fifty-seven pitches in a Major League game has become outlandish. In college, it is more common, but still a testament to just how well the 21-year-old Harvey is built.
"You hope it's a strength, no question," said Mets area scout Marlin McPhail, who attended that game.
In this age of pitch counts and limitations, McPhail quickly added: "We prefer not to have to see that."
With his college season now complete, Harvey isn't likely to throw that many pitches ever again. But assuming he signs, he could become the next workhorse for the Mets, perhaps joining the pitcher to whom McPhail compared him: Mike Pelfrey, the Mets' previous top-10 pick.
2010 top picks
|1||WAS||Bryce Harper, OF|
|2||PIT||Jameson Taillon, RHP|
|3||BAL||Manny Machado, SS|
|4||KC||Christian Colon, SS|
|5||CLE||Drew Pomeranz, LHP|
|6||ARI||Barret Loux, RHP|
|7||NYM||Matt Harvey, RHP|
|8||HOU||Delino DeShields, 2B|
|9||SD||Karsten Whitson, RHP|
|10||OAK||Michael Choice, OF|
|11||TOR||Deck McGuire, RHP|
|12||CIN||Yasmani Grandal, C|
|13||CWS||Chris Sale, LHP|
|14||MIL||Dylan Covey, RHP|
|15||TEX||Jake Skole, OF|
|16||CHC||Haden Simpson, RHP|
|17||TB||Josh Sale, OF|
|18||LAA||Kaleb Cowart, 3B|
|19||HOU||Mike Foltynewicz, RHP|
|20||BOS||Kolbrin Vitek, 2B|
|21||MIN||Alex Wimmers, RHP|
|22||TEX||Kellin Deglan, C|
|23||FLA||Christian Yelich, OF|
|24||SF||Gary Brown, OF|
|25||STL||Zack Cox, 3B|
|26||COL||Kyle Parker, OF|
|27||PHI||Jesse Biddle, LHP|
|28||LAD||Zach Lee, RHP|
|29||LAA||Cam Bedrosian, RHP|
|30||LAA||Chevy Clarke, OF|
|31||TB||Justin O'Conner, C|
|32||NYY||Cito Culver, SS|
|35||ATL*||Matthew Lipka, SS|
|43||SEA*||Taijuan Walker, RHP|
|44||DET*||Nick Castellanos, 3B|
Like Pelfrey, Harvey is a powerful college right-hander, relying -- like most young pitchers do -- on his fastball. And to succeed at the next level, he will have to mimic what Pelfrey has finally done this season: develop his secondary offerings into usable big league pitches.
Featuring a mid-90s fastball that McPhail has clocked as high as 98 mph, along with a mid-80s slider and a low-80s curve and changeup, Harvey posted an 8-3 record and 3.09 ERA in 14 starts for the Tar Heels this season, striking out 102 batters and walking 35 in 96 innings. He is 22-7 with a 3.73 ERA in 54 games (43 starts) over three years at Chapel Hill, ranking ninth all-time in UNC history with 263 strikeouts, 10th with 22 wins.
Before Harvey committed to UNC, the Angels drafted him in the third round of the 2007 Draft. At the time, most Draft pundits rated him the top high school pitcher in the nation -- higher than fellow UNC recruit and 2009 AL Rookie of the Year candidate Rick Porcello.
"Being a 19-year-old, that's such a tough decision to make," Harvey said of his choice to attend North Carolina, calling his time at Chapel Hill "the best three years of [his] life."
The Mets hope the next few will become even better.
The greatest concern surrounding Harvey, more than his now-corrected mechanical flaws of last season and his relatively pedestrian offspeed repertoire, is his signability. Harvey, like Pelfrey, is a client of agent Scott Boras, who is a notoriously steadfast negotiator.
When the Mets inked Pelfrey back in 2005, it was the last time they went significantly over slot recommendations to sign a player. With Pelfrey, the gamble worked. Despite some underwhelming years at the beginning of his career, Pelfrey has developed into a potential All-Star and one of the league's premier workhorses.
Because Pelfrey's initial $5.3 million contract expired before he became eligible for arbitration, he is making $500,000 this season. What at first was a hefty contract has become a steal for the organization.
"We've done a pretty good job in signing most of our players," general manager Omar Minaya said. "And we are hopeful that we are going to be able to sign Matt Harvey to be a New York Met."
Minaya and his staff will have until the Aug. 16 deadline to do so. In the interim, they will negotiate with a player they hope can become a future mainstay in their rotation.
"He's able to bring power, and he's also got that power body," Mets director of amateur scouting Rudy Terrasas said. "I'm very excited that we were able to have Matt there at No. 7 for us."
McPhail cited Harvey's family and background as one of the motivating factors in drafting him. Born in New London, Conn., and raised in nearby Mystic, Conn., Harvey grew up a Yankees fan like so many in the area. Now, he is a "fan of baseball."
"He's a good person, a hard worker, the type of quality person that you look for and the type of talent you look for," McPhail said. "We're excited to have somebody that's quality on the field and quality off the field."
Harvey is also capable of throwing 157 pitches in a game, just in case the Mets should ever need it. And that's when he's feeling sick.
Sitting in the stands that day with visions of drafting the young right-hander, McPhail may have cringed when pitch No. 157 whizzed across the plate. But somewhere on his face, there also had to have been a hint of a smile.
McPhail will concede this much: "It was actually a pretty well-pitched game."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.