JUPITER, Fla. -- Following each of his first two Grapefruit League starts, Matt Harvey spoke about the unknowns of returning from surgery to remove a rib, and specifically the process to build his fastball back up to its usual velocity.
On Wednesday, after he allowed four runs -- two earned -- in 3 1/3 innings in a 6-2 loss to the Marlins, Harvey acknowledged for the first time what might happen if his fastball velocity does not return.
"You can't look past it," Harvey said. "It's going to be there or it's not, and I have to go out and pitch. I think after today, I feel really confident going into my next outing and moving forward.
"Obviously I'm not looking to throw 100 mph again, or 97 even. My job is to get people out, no matter what I'm throwing."
Harvey's inability to do so Wednesday was plain to see, with the Marlins reaching base six times against him in his 3 1/3 innings. The right-hander needed 67 pitches to record those 10 outs.
Sitting 91-93 mph for the third straight start, Harvey allowed two of his runs on a pair of fourth-inning doubles, each of those coming off 91-mph fastballs. Upon the Mets' instruction, Harvey threw more breaking balls than usual, relying on his slider in particular as a strikeout pitch. But the Marlins also did plenty of damage on a fastball that, despite reaching 95 mph on occasion, rested a few ticks lower than that.
It was enough for Mets manager Terry Collins also to begin considering a world without Harvey's old upper-90s heat.
"I'm not worried about velocity, I'm worried about command," Collins said. "If his command's good, he can pitch."
Among the most significant questions of Mets camp has been Harvey's form, off surgery to relieve the symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome. The Mets have said repeatedly that they are not expecting a replay of 2013, when Harvey rode his mid- to upper-90s fastball to a 2.27 ERA and a start for the National League in the All-Star Game. Harvey regained nearly all of that velocity in his return from Tommy John surgery two years later, before losing some while experiencing numbness in his fingers last season.
Neither he nor the Mets know if the velocity will again return. Yet both he and the Mets say they are also confident he can pitch effectively without it.
The time may soon come when Harvey will have to prove it.
"Every year, you're not trying to compare yourself to something else or someone else, or even me in 2013," Harvey said. "It's my job to go out and stay focused on the task at hand."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.