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Mets-Nationals Preview

New York Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores (4) prepares to field a fielder's choice by Texas Rangers' Adam Rosales in the fourth inning of an exhibition baseball game, Saturday April 4, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. Rosales was safe at first. (AP Photo/Tony Gutie Photo:

New York Mets shortstop Wilmer Flores (4) prepares to field a fielder's choice by Texas Rangers' Adam Rosales in the fourth inning of an exhibition baseball game, Saturday April 4, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. Rosales was safe at first. (AP Photo/Tony Gutie

Matt Harvey walked the streets of New York as part of a television show not long before starting the 2013 All-Star Game and went unrecognized while interviewing unsuspecting Mets fans about the phenom holding the microphone directly in front of them.

The then-24-year-old didn't have much longer to make more of an impression.

More than 19 months removed from his last regular-season outing, Harvey takes the mound Thursday against the host Washington Nationals looking to prove he's the same pitcher who once dominated hitters.

Two days after allowing a career-worst 13 hits on 102 pitches in a 3-0 loss to Detroit on Aug. 24, 2013, the Mets learned Harvey had a partially torn UCL in his right elbow that eventually would land him on Dr. James Andrews' operating table for Tommy John surgery.

Harvey was 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA in 26 starts and led the NL with 191 strikeouts at the time, and in July had started the Midsummer Classic at Citi Field.

Although he lost the final month and a half of that season and all of 2014, the right-hander seems more than prepared to pick up where he left off. Harvey threw in the upper 90s in the spring, had a 1.19 ERA in 22 2-3 innings and struck out 21 with just one walk.

"Looking back, I'm obviously pretty pleased with how (the recovery) went," Harvey told MLB's official website. "Everything felt good from Day 1. I'm happy with how (spring training) ended and obviously ready for the season."

Harvey's return comes against a familiar opponent. He's 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA, 25 strikeouts and four walks in 22 innings over three starts against the Nationals, including a win April 19, 2013, over the fellow one-time phenom he'll oppose in this contest, Stephen Strasburg. The Mets plan to limit Harvey to about 90 pitches.

"I'm excited to get things going and kind of put the injury behind me and start a fresh season," Harvey said.

Harvey was told he would need Tommy John surgery nearly three years to the date after Strasburg received the same news during his 2010 rookie season. The right-hander has made only one trip back to the disabled list since returning for his first full season in 2012 and has continued to pitch at a high level.

Strasburg, who started opening day the previous three seasons, went 14-11 with a 3.14 ERA for the NL East-champion Nationals in 2014. He heads into this campaign after a twisted left ankle forced him to miss a start in spring training.

He appears to be feeling better, though, and allowed one run in 5 1-3 innings against the Yankees in his final spring start Friday. He said he wants to be "a little bit more efficient" when he faces the Mets, against whom he is 3-1 with a 2.19 ERA in six starts.

Washington evened this three-game set Wednesday with a 2-1 victory despite going 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position. All the Nats needed was Ryan Zimmerman's two-run homer in the first inning.

Travis d'Arnaud drove in the only run for the Mets, who have scored one earned run with a lineup that has drawn criticism.

"I think what happened was, people were surprised by the lineup," general manager Sandy Alderson said before the game while noting manager Terry Collins has full control of the lineup. "When there's a surprise like that, people are scrambling around for some sort of rationale or explanation."

New York announced closer Jenrry Mejia has been placed on the 15-day DL with inflammation in his right elbow.

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