Kansas City Royals: What happened to Matt Harvey?

ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 23: Matt Harvey #33 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim walks into the dugout after giving up six runs in the first inning to the Minnesota Twins at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 23, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - MAY 23: Matt Harvey #33 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim walks into the dugout after giving up six runs in the first inning to the Minnesota Twins at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 23, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

His command? Non-existent. The bite on his off-speed pitches? Gone. His velocity? Steadily dropping.  What happened to Kansas City Royals RHP Matt Harvey?

Once dubbed “The Dark Knight,” Kansas City Royals pitcher Matt Harvey looks unrecognizable, compared to his younger self.

Harvey debuted in 2012 with the Mets and blossomed into one of baseball’s most promising young pitchers. He strutted onto the mound with impeccable confidence and blistered hitters with sizzling upper-90s fastballs.

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He pitched with an attitude. He fired fastballs with conviction. His body language told the batter “I know I’m better than you, and you know I’m better than you, so get out of my way!”

Former Mets catcher John Buck told the New York Post:

"“Batters, when they came up, they just had this aura of, ‘We have no shot.’ There were a lot of times I felt like, ‘This [hitter] is done.’ I would hear comments from hitters: ‘Dude, what about this Harvey guy?’ That’s when he had that psychological edge. He knew that he had it. The hitters knew it and were feeling the effects of it: ‘[Bleep], I have no chance.’ They’re already down 0-1 when that happens.”"

Matt Harvey captivated Mets fans. He gave them hope. In an otherwise mediocre and bland era of Mets baseball, Harvey gave fans a reason to tune in. He emerged as one of the game’s best young pitchers in 2013, striking out 191 batters in 178.1 innings, posting a 2.27 ERA and starting the All-Star game.

However, Harvey’s breakout season in 2013 came with an asterisk: the Tigers smacked Harvey around in his 26th start of the season. He surrendered 13 hits in 6.2 innings and complained he felt unusually fatigued after the game. Several days later the Mets announced Harvey tore his UCL, resulting in Tommy John surgery.

Harvey missed the 2014 season but bounced back like a rebound in 2015. His stuff looked as sharp as ever. His fastball jumped out of his hand and raged toward the plate, averaging 96.5 mph, and often touched 98-99. His slider averaged 90 mph and swindled hitters – the pitch mimicked his fastball at release, then broke suddenly before reaching the plate, making hitters flail. Harvey finished the season with stellar numbers: a 13-8 record, 4.3 WAR, and 2.71 ERA.

Harvey’s career peaked in 2015 World Series game 5. The Mets trailed the Royals in the series 3-1. The season was on the line. Win or go home. The Mets turned to Harvey. Harvey was the team’s horse. The leader of their rotation. Mr. Clutch.

Harvey delivered a masterful performance, throwing eight scoreless innings and striking out nine. He commanded the strike zone and threw pitches exactly where he wanted. Mets fans sported batman masks – honoring Harvey’s nickname “The Dark Knight” — and stood on their feet chanting “Harvey, Harvey, Harvey!”

Harvey tallied 102 pitches after eight innings, and manager Terry Collins planned on turning the game over to closer Jeurys Familia.

Pitching coach Dan Warthen told Harvey he was done – and Harvey wouldn’t have it. You could see him saying “No way! No way! No way!”

He approached Collins with vigor and pleaded his case. Collins obliged.

Harvey took the mound in the ninth inning and promptly walked Lorenzo Cain. Cain swiped second base, and Eric Hosmer rifled a double to left field, scoring Cain. That was it. Collins brought in Familia, who couldn’t hold the lead, and the Royals won the game and the series.

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Kansas City Royals pitcher Matt Harvey just hasn’t been the same since.

He posted a 4.86 ERA in 2016 and was diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome – a severe injury which requires surgery and often ends pitching careers.

Harvey nonetheless returned in 2017 with diminished velocity and worse numbers: his once-lively fastball dropped to 93 mph and he finished the year with a 6.70 ERA.

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The Mets dealt Harvey to the Reds in May 2018 after another terrible start, and he produced a mediocre season in Cincinnati, going 7-7 with a 4.50 ERA. He signed with the Angels following the 2018 season and performed atrociously. Los Angeles released Harvey in July last year after he went 3-5 with a dreadful 7.09 ERA.

The Royals took a flyer on Harvey this summer, signing him to a minor league contract.

Harvey toed the rubber Tuesday night against Cleveland and served up batting practice: the Indians walloped 3 homers, and Harvey lasted 1 1/3 innings.

His stat line did the talking: 1.1 innings pitched, 7 hits, 5 runs. Ouch. Better get some morphine for that wound.

Harvey – who once presented an imposing figure and exuded unshakable confidence – was a shell of his former self.  He looked timid and uncomfortable.

It was as though he was waiting for something bad to happen, waiting to be smacked around. He slumped his shoulders, shook his head and sweated profusely. He spiked fastballs in the dirt and threw head-high changeups. His slider – which, at one time, bit like a crocodile – was flatter than concrete. One such slider, which simply failed to move, turned into a moon-shot home run off the bat of Franmil Reyes.

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Following Tuesday’s horrid start, Matt Harvey owns a wince-inducing 15.43 ERA and one must wonder if he will ever take the mound in an MLB game again. We are left with the sad, stunning reality of a promising superstar who has plunged from grace before our eyes.