About this time a year ago, with his ace still bearing the marks of a surgeon's scalpel, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson declared that the upcoming season would not be about Matt Harvey.

It didn't exactly play out that way.

Harvey, 25, never threw a pitch, but his name peppered the headlines. His squabbles with management bordered on distraction, even though they were rooted in his inevitable desire to speed up a painfully slow rehab.

Now it's a moot point. Those tension points have mostly vanished. After his season-long exile, Harvey is healthy. As spring training officially opens this week, the Mets will report to Port St. Lucie, Florida, feeling more complete than they did at any point last season.

"I'm right where I need to be," Harvey told reporters this past week.

By extension, the Mets are hoping for the same, now that they have their dynamic righthander atop their starting rotation.

"If we stay healthy -- if we get progress from our younger players and health from our veteran players -- I think we'll be in good shape," Alderson said by phone.

Expectations loom over the Mets in a way that has been unfamiliar since the Bernie Madoff financial scandal triggered an era of austerity. While the payroll remains lean -- it stands at about $100 million -- the franchise's focus on developing its own players appears close to paying off.

Whether the Mets did enough this offseason to augment their talent base remains an open question. Aside from the aggressive November signing of former National League batting champ Michael Cuddyer, the Mets did little to retrofit a team that finished 79-83 a year ago.

Wilmer Flores enters as the starting shortstop, though uncertainty abounds about his ability to handle the position. The starting rotation features more arms than there are open spots, fallout from the Mets' inability to find a suitable trade partner.

By contrast, rivals such as the Nationals beefed up their rosters. The defending NL East champions added star righthander Max Scherzer to its already formidable rotation.

Yet Alderson believes the Mets have the talent on hand to make a 10-game improvement in the standings. Such a jump would give the Mets their first winning record since they went 89-73 in 2008.

More importantly, it could position the Mets for their first postseason appearance since 2006.

The key to it will be Harvey.

In August 2013, during a somber news conference, Alderson confirmed that doctors had discovered a ligament tear in Harvey's right elbow. At the time of his injury, he was 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA, little more than a month removed from starting in the All-Star Game at Citi Field.

Aside from the extended absence of what Alderson called "a charismatic figure," the franchise also would be without a gifted pitcher who had been dominating the National League. The news, Alderson said, delivered an emotional jolt to the entire organization.

Harvey's return, however, promises to have the opposite effect.

"Matt is a magnet for attention, media attention, fan attention," Alderson said. "And I think there's a halo effect on the rest of our players."

Pitchers and catchers don't officially report until Thursday, and their first workouts aren't scheduled until Saturday, but the team's complex in Port St. Lucie has been buzzing with activity.

Jacob deGrom and righthander Zack Wheeler began working on Feb. 1, a good sign for the Mets, who need the young and talented righthanders to continue their development.

On Monday, Harvey joined the contingent. The next day, he threw a bullpen session, again signaling that his return is imminent.

This season is about Harvey, and this time it suits the Mets just fine.

"It's not just Matt coming back but the attention that [he] draws to himself, as well as others on the team," Alderson said. "There's more interest in the Mets. That's a good thing."