C.J. Nitkowski: Matt Harvey Has Been Concerning

After advancing to the World Series last season and returning the best starting rotation in baseball, the New York Mets were expected to run away with the NL East.

So far, they haven’t. In fact, they’re (2-5) and three-and-a-half games behind the Nationals (5-1) in the division standings.

What’s been the issue for the Mets?

“I think they got a couple of bad combinations going,” FS1, CBS Sports Radio and MLB Network analyst C.J. Nitkowski said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “They’re the offensive team that you probably thought they might have been. They’re better because they bring in (Yoenis) Cespedes and they bring in a couple other guys in the middle infield in Neil Walker, and David Wright’s gotten off to a great start. But their foundation is their pitching. We know their offense is going to be hot and cold and we’ve got them on a little bit of a cold streak early on here in the season. The thing that makes you just a little bit nervous – and it’s very easy to get Mets fans nervous – is what is going on in the starting rotation so far with Jacob deGrom dealing with the lat issue. Probably nothing significant, he’s only going to miss one start, it’s not a DL stint for him – but then Matt Harvey (has struggled).”

Harvey is 0-2 with a 4.63 ERA, 1.54 WHIP and has just five strikeouts in 11 and 2/3 innings.

“Matt Harvey (has been) a little bit concerning,” Nitkowski said. “He was my preseason Cy Young Award pick. (I remember) looking at him last year and thinking, ‘Okay, no limits at all this year for him, he’s going to go out and throw 220 innings and he’s going to light it up and it’s been a slow start for him. Only five strikeouts in 11+ innings. That was a little bit concerning. It is only April and you’ve got to deal with weather, but when you start to see a couple of nicks in the rotation – Steven Matz really struggled in his first start – it makes you a little bit anxious.”

Matz allowed seven earned runs in 1 and 2/3 innings in a 10-3 loss to the Marlins on April 11. If not for great starts from Noah Syndergaard (1-0, 0.69 ERA, 21 strikeouts) and deGrom (1-0, 1.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP), the Mets, who are averaging just 2.6 runs per game, could be winless.

“I don’t think that’s going to hold,” Nitkowski cautioned listeners. “The foundation is that starting rotation and they’ll get Zack Wheeler back at some point and only get stronger. But hopefully Matt Harvey, it’s not a big deal, and hopefully Jacob deGrom, it’s a not a big deal. But if it were, that would be a significant problem for the Mets.”

The Mets, who will look to avoid a sweep against Miami on Wednesday, begin a nine-game road trip Friday against the Indians, Phillies and Braves.

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