Terry Collins to Matt Harvey: “Back off”

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While the Mets have downplayed the possibility at every turn, Matt Harvey has repeatedly said that he would like to pitch in the majors this season. It’s an understandable sentiment from a competitive athlete, even one less than one year removed from Tommy John surgery, but Mets manager Terry Collins told Harvey via phone today to tap the brakes.

Harvey, who recently began throwing off a mound, told ESPN New York 98.7 on Wednesday that he’s already “throwing into the low- to mid-90s” with “pretty much no effort” and reiterated that he wants to pitch in the majors this year. According to Adam Rubin of ESPN New York, Collins made it clear to Harvey that he will not see game action this season. He also told him that he didn’t appreciate him doing the radio interview while the Mets were in the middle of a game.

“He wants to try to get back here to help,” Collins said about Harvey. “And I explained to him, ‘I understand that. But … you have got to understand the big picture. And the big picture is 2015. So back off.’

“Now, unless I’m standing next to him, I can’t control it. You guys think I can. I can’t. It’s impossible. This guy will hire somebody to go throw with him. That’s the way he is. That’s just how he is. I just said, ‘You’ve got to be smart about this. And, by the way, stop doing radio shows during the ballgame telling everybody you’re throwing 95 mph. That isn’t going to help us up here.’

“He gets it. He said, ‘Yeah, I just wanted to let them know I’m fine.’ I said, ‘Yeah, but there’s a phraseology you could use to say, hey, look, I’m doing fine and I’m making progress.'”

It’s a little weird to hear this kind of talk from Collins and not Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, but this is the deal with Harvey. He’s headstrong and marches to the beat of his own drummer and sometimes it will put him at odds with the team, much like his decision to rehab in New York at the start of the year as opposed to Florida. You have to take the good with the bad/drama. It will be a lot easier to take if he comes back healthy and picks up where he left off last year.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉