JUPITER, Fla. - As he rolled up for work Wednesday, Mets ace Matt Harvey projected the persona of a dark knight.
Though sunglasses and a ballcap obscured his face, there was no mistaking him behind the wheel of a sleek gray Maserati. Catcher Travis d'Arnaud came along for the ride, sitting shotgun like Robin alongside Batman.
But a few hours later, on a pitcher's mound in front of a less-than-capacity crowd, Harvey revealed himself to be human.
Five days after he looked like a superhero in his return from Tommy John surgery, when he lit up the radar gun at 99 mph, an admittedly "sluggish" Harvey allowed two runs and six hits in the Mets' 7-4 exhibition loss to the Marlins.
"It felt good," said Harvey, who went 22/3 innings in his second start. "My body was a little sluggish, but other than that, everything was fine. I'm still working on getting into the swing of going out there multiple times and multiple innings. So, getting the body in shape is definitely most important now."
Last Friday, when he pitched in a game for the first time since surgery in October 2013, adrenaline helped Harvey ratchet up his velocity. But against the Marlins, he allowed the six hits, including three in a row. He struck out two and walked one.
"He just didn't have his best stuff today," said d'Arnaud, who also caught Harvey's first outing. "That's the only difference."
It had been somewhat expected, a message that pitching coach Dan Warthen relayed to Harvey afterward. "A lot of guys will be flat their second time out," Warthen said.
Although the radar gun at Roger Dean Stadium had Harvey's fastball in the low to mid-90s, a scout said his velocity was actually 2 to 3 mph higher.
Harvey touched 98 mph and sat in the 95-96 range in the first inning, though he tailed off slightly at 94-95 in the second.
Although Harvey didn't flash the same electric stuff he had in his return, he made progress. He threw 49 pitches, nearly doubling the 25 he threw five days earlier. He should throw 60 in his next outing, scheduled for Monday against the Red Sox.
Harvey's curveball looked sharper as the game went along and he mixed in his changeup, a point of emphasis heading into the start. Perhaps just as importantly, those tasked with trying to hit him sensed little difference. "I'm pretty sure we can say he's healthy," Michael Morse said.
Christian Yelich had two hits off Harvey but said the pitcher "hasn't lost anything."
In the second, Harvey allowed a run when he gave up hits to the first three batters he faced, including Ichiro Suzuki, who lined an RBI single to center. The Marlins added a run in the third, when Giancarlo Stanton fought off an inside fastball to drive a double over the head of leftfielder Michael Conforto.
"He's so big and strong that even though I got it in on him, he still was able to get it out to the warning track," Harvey said. "So, he's making $300 million for a reason."
Harvey bounced back, using a sharp, off-speed pitch to strike out Morse. With that, Terry Collins emerged from the dugout to retrieve Harvey, another step in his comeback completed.
"For me, it was a little fatigue, a little tiredness," Harvey said. "Other than that, everything felt great."