Matt Harvey is officially available out of the pen on Tuesday. For now, he's a bullpen arm. Only one question remains: What will Harvey’s role be?
With hopes of both salvaging Harvey's career and helping the Mets win games, Mickey Callaway and Dave Eiland felt this was the right move. But does that mean Harvey will be taking over mop-up duty to keep other arms fresh, or a long man to stay stretched out for a potential move back to the rotation? Is he a standard middle reliever, or a high leverage arm that will be given an opportunity with the game on the line?
The first step in the plan should be to get Harvey into a game as soon as possible. The longer he sits idle, the more we'll wonder about the questions above, and as a result, it will become more of a distraction. In his first few times out, I expect to see him used in a pressure-free situation. Assuming he passes that test, those spots shouldn’t last for long.
The move to the pen is about building confidence as much as it is anything else. Getting a few meaningless innings under Harvey’s belt accomplishes little. For this to be truly effective, he will have to see action in big spots. That means the sixth, seventh, and maybe even the eighth, in tie games or hold situations.
Ideally, I would like for Harvey to complete multiple-inning outings, just as Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo have been. Gsellman and Lugo are a blueprint on how Harvey should be handled, and they were both eased in to their new roles, and as a result, made the transition seamlessly.
But therein lies another potential problem: Is there really enough work to go around for three swingman-like relievers?
In a word: yes. Gsellman could be shifted into a more traditional set-up role, and Lugo is an ideal candidate to become a versatile option for all relief situations. That would help free up some spots for Harvey, add depth to the back-end of the pen, give Callaway more freedom to make situational changes and maybe, just maybe, help the team out as a whole.
Let’s hope all goes according to the plan, whatever it is that Callaway and Eiland have mapped out. I’m still not sure how we got here but we’re about to enter the beginning of the final chapter for Harvey. Either this is the start of a happy ending or it will be over before we know it. It’s now or never.
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