Matt Harvey, No Longer “The Dark Knight,” Continues on His Journey

On Monday, 8/21, Matt Harvey pitched three innings for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, giving up two runs on four hits to the New Hampshire Fischer Cats, including a home run to outfielder Anthony Alford. During his 53-pitch outing, Harvey was far from dominant and though he walked one and struck out three, he struggled with his command within the strike zone. Alford’s homer came on a 3-0 fastball (88 mph) that was up in the zone in the third inning.

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Harvey arrived at NYSEG Stadium at 4 P.M., entering through an opening in the center field fence.  

Harvey earned his “Dark Knight” moniker because his dominance on the mound for the Mets in 2012 and 2013 indicated he could lead his team out of the darkness of losing seasons. He pitched with an attitude, expecting to dominate hitters while displaying a 98 mph fastball and a sharp curve and slider, along with a changeup that darted down in the strike zone.  Monday night Harvey’s pitching was simply ordinary. After the game, as Harvey made his way down the right field line signing autographs, he was asked by a fan how he felt.

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Harvey hit 94 mph once during his 53-pitch performance. His fastball essentially ranged from 88-92 mph.

“Better,” he said succinctly, implying he is on a journey that he takes day by day, not really sure of where he will wind up. Harvey’s demeanor echoes his pitching performance, as both no longer have an edge. When all major league players selected nicknames to be worn on the backs of their jerseys for a marketing promotion the weekend of August 27-29, Harvey simply selected “Harv,” signifying that he knows his pitching is currently not worth Dark Knight status.

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Harvey endeared himself to Binghamton fans as he signed autographs after the game.

As Mets fans eye Harvey’s return to the majors, his actions call for lower expectations. Steady progress is his goal and where he eventually winds up no one knows because he is not a comic book hero. He is a pitcher recovering from surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome.

Note: The following table breaks down Harvey’s pitches. Light brown indicates the first pitch of an inning (e.g., 1 is the first pitch in the first inning; 14 is the first pitch in the second; 38 is the first pitch for his third and final inning).

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Yes, Harvey’s Next Start Will Indeed be in Binghamton!

Matt Harvey will take the mound for the Binghamton Rumble Ponies at 6:35 tonight (8/21), pitching against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. This will be Harvey’s third rehabilitation appearance as he recovers from a shoulder stress injury diagnosed in June.  It’s been six years since Harvey pitched in Binghamton as a 22-year-old prospect, one year after being the #7 pick in the 2010 amateur draft.

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Harvey in action as a Binghamton Met in 2011.

In 2011 Harvey had a solid partial season in Binghamton, going 5-3 and posting a 4.53 E.R.A. after receiving a promotion from St. Lucie. Though he struck out 64 hitters in 59.2 innings, his Double-A performance really gave little indication of the major league dominance he would exhibit in 2013 and 2015 for the Mets. Harvey started the 2013 major league All-Star game and in 2015 was a mainstay of the Met rotation as the Mets won the National League Championship. As Mets fans know, Harvey’s career has been hampered with a series of injuries, including his 2013 Tommy John surgery and 2016 surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

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harvey throws his fastball against the Detroit Tigers in spring Training in 2015.

The Fischer Cats come into Binghamton with a 50-75 record, 32 games behind Trenton. The Ponies, virtually guaranteed a playoff spot with a 12.5 game lead for second place, are six and one-half games behind first place Trenton.

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Will Harvey’s Next Start be in Binghamton?

After pitching three scoreless innings for Brooklyn on Wednesday, 8/16, Matt Harvey stated “I’m ready to pitch again in three or four days wherever the Mets send me.” In three or four days the Binghamton Rumble Ponies will be in the middle of a six-game homestand, and with Binghamton being about 180 miles from Citi Field, Binghamton becomes a logical landing place for Harvey, who has stayed in New York as he recovers from his stress injury in his shoulder.

Harvey will probably be stretched out to throw five innings in his next mound appearance. This Sunday the Rumble Ponies will play Portland in a 1:05 start and on Monday the Ponies take on New Hampshire in a 6:35 start.

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Harvey last pitched at Binghamton in 2011. Playing third base in the background is Josh Satin, who also went on to play for the N.Y. Mets. 

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Pony Profile: Casey Delgado

27-year-old Casey Delgado came to the Mets in unorthodox fashion as, after pitching and graduating from  Austin Peay State University in Tennessee, he pitched for two years in the Frontier League, an independent baseball league. After posting a 1.15 E.R.A. for the, and I kid you not, the Traverse City Beach Bums, at the start of the Frontier League season in 2015, Casey signed with the Mets and went on to win 8 games for Savannah (low Class-A). In 2016 Casey split his time between St. Lucie and Binghamton, winning 12 games for the season. This year Casey has been a mainstay in the rotation for the Rumble Ponies, pitching 93 innings and going 9-5, with a 4.82 E.R.A.

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Delgado delivers a four-seam fastball for the Rumble Ponies.

Delgado’s pitching repertoire includes a fastball, sinker, curve and changeup. He throws both a two-seam and four-seam fastball, with his fastball sitting in the 89-90 mph range. His bread-and-butter pitch is his sinker. When asked what the biggest adjustment to Double-A baseball has been, Delgado explained “The hitters don’t miss your mistakes up here. I’ve had to improve my command because the hitters here do not miss your misses.”   As for living in Binghamton, Delgado has enjoyed his time in the area and likes the small-town ambience. “I really like it here. It’s a great place to live. You know, I grew up in Miami, so for example when they talk about crime here, I smile to myself because this area has no crime at all compared to where I grew up.”

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Delgado, left, and Rumble Pony teammate Mickey Jannis get in some running during spring training in 2017.

Delgado is looking forward to finish the year strong and is looking forward to pitching in the playoffs. Currently Binghamton has a 7.5 game lead for the second playoff spot in its division.

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Pony Profile: Corey Oswalt

Oswalt was drafted in the seventh round of the 2012 amateur draft out of Madison High School in San Diego, where he starred as a shortstop. During his senior year he pitched about 20 innings so that he could show his potential as a pitcher and increase his prospect status.  Though he had only that limited experience as a pitcher, the Mets saw promise in his arm strength. The Mets value arm strength a great deal when scouting high school and college players and Oswalt is another example of the Mets having success in turning a position player into a pitcher. Jacob deGrom is a shining example of the upside of this practice, as he was a shortstop during most of his career at Stetson University.

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Oswalt delivers his four-seam fastball against the Erie Seawolves on August 8th. Luis Guillorme is in the background, playing second base.  

 

Oswalt has been outstanding this season with the Rumble Ponies. As of this writing, he has a 9-4 record, with an E.R.A. of 2.28. He throws his fastball about 50% of the time, with speeds ranging in the 90-93 mph range. His second best pitch is his slider that he throws in the mid-to-high 80s; his off speed pitches include a changeup and curveball. He works quickly on the mound and has excellent control, getting good break on his changeup low in the strike zone. In 110 innings he has struck out 91 batters and allowed 100 hits, compiling an impressive WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) of 1.20. He has struck out 91 hitters through 110 innings and he focuses on pitching to contact. His curveball is a work in progress; in a recent start fewer than 10% of his pitches were curves.

Oswalt will not turn 23 until September 3rd and his age and large frame (he stands at 6’- 5” and weighs 250 lbs.) have the Mets thinking of him as a durable back of the rotation starter. Barring injury, a long career in the majors awaits him as he fine tunes his changeup and develops his curveball in the next year.  He has teamed with P.J. Conlon to be a pitching mainstay with the Rumble Ponies this year, positioning the team for a playoff appearance in September.

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From Racquet Abuse to a Winner’s Check at the Binghamton Challenger

This past week of tennis at Binghamton’s Recreation Park provided numerous story lines, but the ups and downs of the happenings at the Levene Gouldin & Thompson Challenger Tournament is best summarized by the play of America’s Denis Kudla. On Wednesday, July 26th, Denis Kudla smashed his racquet against the hard courts of Recreation Park as he lost his second round match to wild card entrant William Blumberg in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2.

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Kudla destroys his racquet after falling behind 4-2 in the second set against William Blumberg.  

By 12:30 on Sunday, July 30th, Kudla was all smiles, however, as he teamed with Daniel Nguyen to defeat the Australian team of Jarryd Chaplin and Luke Saville in the doubles final, 6-3, 7-6. Kudla and Nguyen split the winner’s check of $4,650.00; amazingly it was the first time they had played doubles together!

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Kudla has a hug and smile for doubles partner Daniel Nguyen after winning the doubles championship at Binghamton’s Challenger Tournament. 

After Kudla and Nguyen celebrated their victory, Cameron Norrie (GBR) defeated Jordan Thompson (Australia) for the singles championship 6-4, 0-6, 6-4. Thompson came into the tournament as the #1 seed, with a world ranking of #79. Norrie, who just turned pro this past June after his freshman year at Texas Christian University, came into the tournament being ranked #222. After the match, Thompson congratulated Norrie, telling him “You are a lot better than your ranking indicates. I look forward to seeing in the top 100 shortly.”

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Cameron Norrie acknowledges the crowd’s applause after his upset victory in the finals of the 2017 Binghamton Challenger. The underdog Norrie was the crowd favorite, as Jordan Thompson’s repeated bickering with the officials was a stark contrast to the stoic demeanor Norrie exhibited throughout the match. 

Thompson provided the crowd with a humorous moment as he displayed his Australian heritage when he responded to the umpire’s question of “Are the people in the Pavillion getting up from their seats during the point?” by saying “What do you reckon?”.

Norrie’s winner’s check was for $10,800.00.

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Thompson tells the umpire, “You’re in charge up there,” as he complained about “musical chairs” in the Pavillion. Thompson felt the up and down movement by the seated fans in the pavillion distracted from his game. 

 

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24th Annual Challenger Tournament Begins at Recreation Park

Note: In recognition of the start of the 24th annual Binghamton Challenger Tournament, known as the Levene Gouldin & Thompson Tennis Challenger, we’ll spend time this week documenting the events of the tournament.

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Lamble serves against James Hignett, Binghamton University’s assistant tennis coach during the qualifiers on Saturday, 7/22.

On Saturday, July 22nd, six singles qualifying tennis matches were held at Recreation Park as part of the Levene Gouldin & Thompson Tennis Challenger. All of the matches were won in straight sets:

  • Center Court Match: John Lamble (USA) defeated James Hignett (GBR), 6-3, 6-3.
  • Jarryd Chaplin (Australia) defeated Christopher Rosenteel (USA), 6-2, 7-6.
  • Center Court Match: Evan Song (USA) defeated Jordan Parker (USA), 7-6, 6-2.
  • Connor Farren (USA) defeated Varun Jayaram (USA), 6-0, 6-3.
  • Center Court Match: Dekel Bar (Israel) defeated Kushaan Nath (India), 6-1, 6-1.
  • Shane Monroe (USA) defeated Roy Smith (USA), 6-3, 6-4.

Play started at 10 A.M. and all six matches were completed by 2:30 P.M. I was stationed at Center Court, so I saw Lamble, Song, and Bar win without being strongly challenged. Lamble was efficient in burying most of his shots in the corners of the court, forcing Hignett to play defensively throughout the match. Hignett, the assistant tennis coach for the men’s team at Binghamton University, committed numerous unforced errors in his loss to Lamble.  After a closely contested first set, Evan Song dominated Jordan Parker in the second set as Parker had difficulty attacking Song’s serves. In the final match on Center Court of the day, Dekel Bar overmatched Kushaan Nath, who played at second singles for Binghamton University in 2016-2017.

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Bar returns a winner against Binghamton University’s Kushaan Nath on July 23rd at Recreation Park. 

 

Nath’s serve failed him throughout the match as he had numerous double faults and had to rely on his second serve, as he had trouble getting his first serve in throughout the match. Bar never let Nath get into the match.

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Here’s a summary for the first day of the qualifiers. 

Note: The qualifying round completed on Sunday, 7/23. Song and Bar gained berths in the tournament, while Lamble lost to Evan Quigley in a three-set match. The first official day of Bingahmton’s Challenger Tournment begins at 10 A.M. Monday (7/24) at Recreation Park.

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