NEW YORK (AP) Matt Harvey threw to batters between starts at Citi Field on Friday, trying to correct flaws in his delivery that have turned him into one of the worst starting pitchers in the major leagues.
A season after helping the Mets reach the World Series for the first time since 2000, the 27-year-old right-hander is 3-7 with a 6.08 ERA - 100th among 104 qualifying starters and ahead of only Oakland's Sonny Gray, the Yankees' Michael Pineda, Boston's Clay Buchholz and Milwaukee's Wily Peralta.
''He's got to use his lower half better. He's got to get his arm in a better angle consistently,'' Mets manager Terry Collins said. ''But there's a couple other things that he's doing that I think are leading to that.''
Collins didn't detail the issues, saying ''I don't want to tip stuff off. The other team reads the newspapers, too.''
Harvey did not speak with reporters after Tuesday's 7-4 loss at Washington, and he did not speak with media Friday. His next scheduled start is Monday against the Chicago White Sox.
His performance has steadily deteriorated during games this year. Batters are hitting .250 (21 for 84) with a .381 slugging percentage in his first time through the batting order, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, and they hit .289 (24 for 83) with a .506 slugging percentage the second time though. The third time he faces the order, batters are hitting .519 (28 for 54) with a .778 slugging percentage.
''We're seeing a velocity drop, and there's a reason for that,'' Collins said. ''We're seeing lack of command of his breaking ball. Matter of fact, he said his feel for his breaking ball goes all of a sudden.''
In his return from Tommy John surgery, Harvey was 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA last year and 2-0 in the NL playoffs. He didn't get a decision in either of his World Series starts against Kansas City; after pitching eight scoreless innings in Game 5, he talked Collins into letting him start the ninth only to falter. The Royals went on to win in extra innings to take the title.
Harvey pitched 216 innings last year, including 26 2/3 in the postseason, the most by a pitcher in his first year after Tommy John surgery. The Mets said the problem isn't fatigue, and they have ruled out that he's tipped his pitches.
''It's about muscle memory, more than anything,'' Collins said. ''And so we're trying to get that to be where, hey look, you don't think about it. Just do it. Just stay with what was working earlier in the game. When runners get on base, all of a sudden we see some things that are changing. So, again, it's all about trying to get him to relax and trying to get him to just pitch his game.''