Mets pitcher Matt Harvey (33) reacts after giving up a solo home run to Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jett Bandy on April 14, 2018, at Citi Field.

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Palladino: A Bullpen Stint May Help Matt Harvey Figure Out His Problems

Righty Has Been Roughed Up In Last 2 Outings

Ernie Palladino
April 16, 2018 - 8:56 am
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Mickey Callaway certainly wants to practice patience when it comes to Matt Harvey.

But there must be limits.

Right about now, Callaway should be thinking about where patience stops and action begins when it comes to dealing with the Mets’ former Dark Knight.

It’s not that he’s put the Mets (12-2) in huge trouble record-wise. His faulty start Saturday led only to their second loss of the season, the end to a nice nine-game winning streak. But it marked the third time in three starts this season that the right-hander failed to log more than five innings.

Worse, he hasn’t lasted any longer in a franchise-record 12 straight appearances for a starter dating back to last May, which is not something Callaway can neither take comfort in nor afford in the long term.

Perhaps a trip to the bullpen is what Harvey needs.

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Callaway needs length from his starters, and that‘s not something Harvey is giving him right now. That was a big factor behind the success last season of the Cleveland Indians, for whom Callaway was the pitching coach. Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco each logged 200 innings as Cleveland wiped up the AL Central. Kluber won a Cy Young along the way, and Carrasco won 18 games.

Add another 176 innings from Trevor Bauer, and one can see why the Indians’ bullpen was so efficient when called upon.

Now take the Mets. Their relievers have pitched 50 innings, which isn’t really bad. In fact, Callaway’s bullpen ranks 20th in innings worked. So there is no reason to panic over an overworked pen -- yet.

But nearly a quarter of those innings came in bailing out Harvey.

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Granted, Callaway was being cautious with Harvey’s first start April 3, limiting him to 86 pitches. He actually did a nice job, too, shutting down the Phillies on a hit and a walk while striking out five.

But in his two starts since, he’s given up eight earned runs in 10 innings on 17 hits. Three of those found their way over the fence, including Saturday’s three-run cue shot from Jonathan Villar in the second and Jett Bandy’s monster shot in the fourth.

Harvey struck out six Brewers, which was a good sign. But his early laboring pushed his pitch count up to 95. And the four-run hole he dropped his team into made things no better.

Again, it was only the Mets’ second loss of the season. No reason to panic.

Another start or two like the last two, however, and Callaway might be wise to consider moving Harvey to the bullpen, where he can sort out his problems in long relief.

Having Seth Lugo in the starting rotation wouldn’t be such a bad thing. He did a decent job in 18 starts last year, going 7-5 with 4.71 ERA. He’d be a nice stopgap while Harvey finds himself or as the Mets figure out what to do with left-hander Jason Vargas upon his reactivation, possibly in the next 10 days.

It seems Harvey could certainly use some time to get out of his own head. He has yet to accept he’s a different pitcher since his thoracic outlet syndrome surgery of 2016.

He still has pop in the fastball, but it’s not consistent. Yet, on Saturday, he admitted to stubbornly sticking with predominantly a fastball-slider repertoire that had neither the velocity nor movement to keep him out of trouble.

Harvey has to face facts. He’s not going to pin the dial on the speed gun anymore. But he can still be an effective pitcher if his mixes those with the curve and changeup.

That, however, may take a little time to accept. Callaway and pitching coach Dave Eiland must give him that leeway. How much, though, is the question.

Another start or two may hold the answer. And the solution may be to pull Harvey from the rotation, at least temporarily.

If only to get himself right.

Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino

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