UNC Baseball: Matt Harvey makes return to MLB

For the first time in over a year, Matt Harvey returned to a big league mound. How did the former UNC baseball standout do in his return?

We last saw Matt Harvey on a big league mound in 2019. The right-hander was pitching for the Los Angeles Angels, and struggled mightily. Over 12 starts, the former Tar Heel posted a 7.09 ERA, and was eventually released.

At that point, it looked as if it was the end of the line for Harvey, who at one point was considered one of the best pitchers in the game. After a long hiatus, however, Harvey is back.

In late July, the 31-year-old signed a minor league deal with the Kansas City Royals. Prior to signing with Kansas City, it was rumored that Harvey was exploring options to pitch in Korea or Japan. With a need in their starting rotation, the Royals decided to give the former Tar Heel a chance. Harvey made his big league return on Wednesday night, allowing five runs over three innings of work.

Yes, the stat line wouldn’t necessarily impress you, but Harvey was better than his stats indicate. After two scoreless frames, Harvey struggled in the third, allowing two home runs. Overall, the right-hander threw 54 pitches, as he was definitely limited in pitch count in his return.

After having Tommy John surgery in 2015, velocity was an issue for the guy who used to have no issues lighting up the radar gun. On Wednesday, Harvey’s fastball averaged 93.5 MPH, and reached as high as 95.5 MPH. His velocity dipped a bit as the game went on, but Harvey was still able to produce seven swings-and-misses while striking out four Reds hitters.

Here’s what Harvey told MLB.com in regards to his return to the big leagues:

“It was kind of a surreal moment. A lot of different nerves that I haven’t felt in a while. In my mind it was just two bad pitches that home run hitters are not going to miss. I think fine-tuning the off-speed is the next thing to come.”

Manager Mike Matheny was also impressed with the 31-year-old’s first start as part of his comeback trail:

“I was really impressed. Better than what I expected from watching the video of him. Seeing it live, the ball was jumping out of his hand. I thought the breaking ball looked good. I thought it was a good representation of where this might go.”

Matt Harvey is officially back on a big league mound. The question remains, though: can he pitch well enough to earn a full-time spot in the Royals starting rotation?

Only time will tell.

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