PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Matt Harvey still clearly recalls the details of his first encounter with Bryce Harper, during a Double-A game last summer. In three meetings with Harvey, the Nationals' uber-prospect struck out twice and finished 0-for-3.
The stakes were a tick lower for both prospects during the fourth inning of Monday's Grapefruit League game, in which Harper's only plate appearance against Harvey resulted in a walk. But that did not stop Harvey from taking notes.
"I try and pay attention to it," Harvey said. "You never know who you're going to face down the road or next time out. You can learn from each at-bat."
If everything breaks as the Mets and Nats envision, those two will be facing each other in the National League East for years to come. Harper ranked second on MLB.com's 2012 Prospect Watch, with Harvey clocking in at 38th overall.
Johan ready for return to big league action
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- He has faced an empty batter's box. He has faced batters instructed not to swing. He has faced teammates wary of taking their hacks.
Finally, on Tuesday, Johan Santana will face Major League batters in an official game, taking the mound for a 1:10 p.m. matchup against the Cardinals at Digital Domain Park. The game can be watched live on MLB.TV.
"I'm really excited to see him out there," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He's going to have his adrenaline flowing, and we've got to realize that -- and I certainly will. But he's smart enough to know that it's all a process."
Santana will pitch two innings or throw a total of 40 pitches, whichever comes first. And the Mets are not concerned with results. Most important for Collins and his staff will be making sure that Santana comes out of his first Grapefruit League start healthy, ready to pitch again in five days.
Santana has not faced Major League batters in a game since undergoing surgery to repair a torn capsule in his left shoulder in September 2010. Over the past three weeks, he has progressed from throwing off flat ground to pitching off a mound to facing live hitters in batting practice -- but not yet in a game.
"Obviously, two days after tomorrow is when I want to really see how he's doing," Collins said. "That will be a test on how he's going to bounce back."
Wright rests rib cage; Ike getting work in
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- The Mets have no timetable for the return of third baseman David Wright, who sat out Monday evening's Grapefruit League opener with stiffness in the left side of his rib cage. Wright spent his pregame hours Monday receiving treatment from trainers inside the clubhouse.
"The only way to get over those things is rest," manager Terry Collins said. "He's just got to back off some stuff."
Wright, who revealed his injury over the weekend, will continue to sit out until he feels normal.
"He's very, very aware that if he goes down for three weeks," Collins said, "we've got problems."
The team will proceed slightly less cautiously with Ike Davis, whom the Mets believe has Valley Fever. Davis is scheduled to play three innings Monday and another three on Tuesday. He will not play every day for now, though that is normal for any player in the opening weeks of Spring Training.
Byrdak bowls Mets over with near-perfect game
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- When Mets reliever Tim Byrdak was young, his father gave him a choice for his weekends: basketball or bowling. Though his father was a strong bowler with a history of perfect games, Byrdak chose to follow his older brother on the basketball court.
So it was not until later in life that Byrdak began bowling regularly, spending quite a few hours this past offseason at the alley. The skill, apparently, runs in the family. One weekend, Byrdak offered his two sons $2 for every strike they could roll and $1 for every spare.
"I think I wound up paying out $75, or something," Byrdak said, laughing.
The payback came Sunday, when Byrdak came one pin shy of a perfect game during the Mets' team-bonding outing at a local bowling alley. After closing his second game of the night with six consecutive strikes, Byrdak opened his third game with eight in a row. Byrdak's teammates gathered around him as he managed a spare in the ninth frame, closing the night with three more strikes.
The final score of 279 was a personal best for Byrdak, who plans to continue practicing his hobby when he can.
"It's always kind of been there," Byrdak said. "I've been taking it a little more seriously lately."