Mets Prepare Top Prospects For Pace Of Pro Life





PORT ST. LUICE, Fla.—For righthander Matt Harvey and other Mets prospects, their first taste of spring instruction happened away from the diamond.

The organization's advanced training session, the so-called S.T.E.P program, teaches players to cook, to manage their money and even how to handle the media.

The seventh overall pick in last year's draft, Harvey had excelled on the last count, even as reporters crowded around his spring-training locker before he had even thrown a pro pitch. His previous large-scale media experience amounted to a conference call conducted after the Mets signed him last Aug. 16.

The North Carolina product did not take the mound in instructional league because a death in the family sent him home early. Pitching for the S.T.E.P group this spring, Harvey tossed a perfect inning against Italy in a March 5 exhibition for his first live game action since his amateur days.

"I feel like every player's dream is to play in the big leagues," Harvey said. "It's a learning process and I'm going to do everything I can on and off the field to learn from guys who have been here and the coaches who are here."

The Mets anticipate having openings in the rotation when Harvey is ready to contribute. In 14 games for the Tar Heels last spring, he went 8-3, 3.09 with 102 strikeouts in 96 innings.

"I only saw him throw in the bullpen at the end of instructional league," said manager Terry Collins, who served as minor league field coordinator last year. "I saw an outstanding arm, (and) I saw plus stuff on probably one of the ideal pitcher's bodies—6-foot-4, strong, (a) great makeup guy.

"When he first came in, I sat and talked to him for 35 minutes. He has a great approach to pitching, has a plan. I can't wait to see him compete."

Harvey described the negotiating process as long and drawn out. "I didn't necessarily want to sign as late as I did," he said.

"I just used the offseason to get ready and prepared, and hopefully (I'll) have a successful spring training. Wherever they want me to go, then that's where I'll go and try to compete the best I can."

METAMORPHOSES

Lucas Duda played mostly left field last season, when he earned a September callup, but he reacquainted himself with his natural position of first base this spring to enhance his versatility. Collins believes Duda's bat will play in the majors now.

• Righthander Jenrry Mejia did not allow an earned run in his first two spring outings before returning to the Dominican Republic to be with his mother, who had surgery.