Pitcher Matt Harvey has easily become the most closely watched player in recent Buffalo Bisons history. In the era of social media, every inning thrown by the New York Mets' No. 1 draft choice in 2010 is instantly reported and scrutinized. Sure, the Cleveland Indians had some No. 1s here, too. But this is New York, and Mets fans have proved voracious with any nuggets they can mine on Harvey.
Harvey knows the chatter all over the Internet about his Buffalo outings is just a precursor of what's to come and he's dealt with it very well in just his second pro season. He's made 16 starts, posting a 6-3 record and 3.69 earned run average. And now he's a couple of weeks from some national attention.
The 23-year-old was one of three Bisons named Wednesday to the International League team for the Triple-A All-Star Game, to be held in Buffalo July 11 at Coca-Cola Field. Closer Fernando Cabrera was elected to the game in a combined vote of fans, media and club officials, while Harvey and outfielder Valentino Pascucci were added by the league office after consultation with the teams.
"This being my first year in Triple-A and only my second year in pro ball, this is a huge honor for me," Harvey said prior to Wednesday's 9-4 win over the Louisville Bats. " ... It's going to be nice. There will be a lot of fans here. It's a big ballpark and it will be fun to play in the All-Star Game and represent Buffalo."
The complete 30-man IL roster was announced Wednesday, featuring four players apiece from the Pawtucket Red Sox and Charlotte Knights and three each from the Bisons and Indianapolis Indians. The Pacific Coast League roster for the game will be announced today.
The three selections are the most for the Bisons since they sent four players (Ryan Garko, Jake Gautreau, Jeff Liefer and Ernie Young) and manager Marty Brown to the 2005 game in Sacramento.
Harvey, 23, was born more than eight months after the inaugural Triple-A All-Star Game was played here on July 13, 1988 in the stadium's first season. He leads the Bisons in wins, ERA and strikeouts (87) in his first season in Triple-A and is one of four IL pitchers to make 16 starts thus far.
"I'm not totally happy with everything but I'm kind of a perfectionist and I don't want to just settle for mediocre," Harvey said. "It's not in my blood to do that. I'm getting there. I'm getting close. I can feel it."
Harvey has spent the year in the Buffalo rotation with fellow top prospect Jeurys Familia. The biggest Mets prospect of all, Zach Wheeler, is expected to get promoted from Double-A Binghamton to join the Buffalo rotation sometime in the second half. Then watch the Internet really burn up.
"I strive to be better because of [the attention]," Harvey said. "No one wants to fail at this game, especially a young guy coming up. You have to block that stuff out. You have to do everything you can on the field and not worry about anything that goes on outside. Your preparation every time you take the mound is about getting guys out and living in the moment with what's to come."
Pascucci has spent some time at first base this year and said opposing batters have often commented on how lively Harvey's stuff is to try to hit. Cabrera has also been impressed.
"It's a really good step for him. He's got plenty of talent and that's what he's shown," Cabrera said. "This game is big for his future. He's really learning and learning quick at this level. [The Mets] have big plans for him. He's got the arm and the talent to do it. Getting selected to the All-Star Game will help his comfort level because it means he's doing things right."
Cabrera and Pascucci have done plenty right themselves.
Cabrera (2-3, 4.04 ERA) leads the IL with 15 saves and didn't blow an opportunity until Tuesday's loss to Louisville. Cabrera, 30, was named to the ‘05 game as well while a member of the Bisons but did not play because of a promotion to Cleveland. He represented Pawtucket in 2009.
"It's always a good feeling to be an all-star. It means I did something good on the season so far to be recognized," he said. "There's plenty of players who can be in the All-Star Game but to get chosen to represent the team is a good feeling."
Pascucci is batting only .247 but leads the Bisons in home runs (13), RBIs (55) and walks (57). He entered Wednesday eighth in the IL in homers. Pascucci has experience as a hometown player in the All-Star Game, as he homered and drove in two runs for the Pacific Coast League in 2007 in Albuquerque while representing the hometown Isotopes.
"Anytime you can represent your hometown team, play in your home city and play in front of your home crowd, it's always a lot of fun," Pascucci said. "I'm looking forward to the game and having a couple of the other guys with me."
Pascucci said he's also interested in taking part in the Triple-A Home Run Derby, to be held here on July 9.
All four Pawtucket players — catcher Ryan Lavarnway, shortstop Pedro Ciriaco, DH Mauro Gomez and starting pitcher Justin Germano — were elected as starters. The remaining IL starters are Gwinnett first baseman Ernesto Mejia, Columbus second baseman Cord Phelps, Charlotte third baseman Dan Johnson, outfielders Corey Brown (Syracuse), Greg Golson (Charlotte) and Matt LaPorta (Columbus), Lehigh Valley pitcher (Tyler Cloyd) and Toledo reliever Chris Bootcheck.
LaPorta, who has shuffled between Columbus and Cleveland the last three years, was the top vote getter in fan balloting. The reserves include Louisville catcher Dioner Navarro, a major-league All-Star in 2008 for Tampa Bay.