PHOENIX -- Matt Harvey stood in the center of Chase Field's home clubhouse Sunday, signing baseballs and introducing himself to his temporary teammates. Among the XM Futures Game's more heralded and experienced players, Harvey was the new guy on baseball's prospect stage.
"Walking in here was pretty eye-opening," said Harvey, the Mets' top pitching prospect and suddenly one of the top overall prospects in baseball. "I'm trying to take it in as much as I can."
He had to wait until the very end. Facing the game's final batter, Harvey threw three pitches -- all fastballs -- to retire Reymond Fuentes on a groundout and record the save, reaching 97 miles per hour on the radar gun. One of his former teammates at Class A St. Lucie, third baseman Jefry Marte, also played in the game on the opposing World team and finished 0-for-1 with a strikeout.
"I've never really done that before," Harvey said of his relief appearance for the U.S. squad. "It was just fun, a lot of fun."
But for Harvey, Sunday was more about the atmosphere. Eleven months ago, Harvey was a first-round Draft pick out of the University of North Carolina, looking to sign his first professional contract. Sunday, he was at Chase Field sharing a row of lockers with baseball's future superstars, picking U.S. coach Mike Piazza's brain about the big leagues.
"I didn't want to bug him too much," Harvey said.
There is no sense of entitlement for Harvey, a top-10 Draft pick whom many Mets fans have already crowned their savior. Burning through the Florida State League and advancing to Double-A Binghamton within his first three months as a professional, Harvey is the organization's most heralded pitching prospect since Mike Pelfrey, who has yet to fulfill his own considerable promise. If the Mets are to remain competitive as the core of their 2006 playoff roster continues to disperse, Harvey will almost certainly play a significant role.
But publicly, at least, he is not yet considering his future in the Majors. Rather than imagine his name on the back of a big league jersey, Harvey is concentrating on throwing first-pitch strikes to Double-A hitters. His recent inability to do so has led to a rocky beginning with the B-Mets, including a seven-run outing last week.
"In college, I could get behind and still be a successful pitcher," Harvey said. "I'm learning quickly that you can't do that at a higher level."
Once he adjusts, the numbers should improve. Still showing fine control and an ability to miss bats at Double-A (14 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings), Harvey should stick in Binghamton for the rest of this season, likely advancing to his first big league Spring Training camp next February. With health and luck, he could reach the Majors shortly thereafter.
"It's kind of hitting me slowly," Harvey said of his rapid advance. "But it's pretty unbelievable."