Reunion in Portland

Reunion in Portland

PORTLAND, Maine --- Binghamton pitcher Matt Harvey faced his former Tar Heel battery mate, Portland catcher Tim Federowicz, in a Double A minor league matchup on Monday night.

It was only three years ago that Federowicz was catching at UNC, helping to bring along Harvey, a talented freshman pitcher.

Federowicz was drafted in the 7th round by the Boston Red Sox in 2008 and has since worked his way up the system, through four levels of the organization.

"It has been great and the Red Sox have been really good to me," Federowicz said. "Ever since the day I was drafted going to Lowell, Greenville, Salem and now here [in Portland]. It has been good to experience an organization like this."

Federowicz was ranked as the No. 21 prospect in the Red Sox system -- as well as the top defensive catcher -- by Baseball America this season. He's batting .265 through 80 games with Portland.

"I think that I have made a lot of strides offensively and defensively in my career so far," he said. "I am happy with the progress I have made. I have learned so much coming to pro ball and the mindset every day. It is a little bit more individual in the minor leagues but once you get to the big leagues it is more like college and you get to just worry about winning which makes the game a lot more fun. Sometimes when you stress too much on the individual stuff it will wear on you mentally."

Harvey was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2010 draft by the New York Mets, following a dominant junior season at UNC in which he earned All-ACC honors. He amassed an 8-2 record along with a 2.37 ERA at High A level St. Lucie this season before being promoted to Binghamton.

"It was great at first and I started off real hot and that is always good to get a good start," Harvey said. "I had some struggles here early in my Double A debut but I am coming around and starting to get the feel for everything."

On Monday night against Portland, Harvey gave up two runs in the first inning before settling down to throw four shutout innings while striking out nine. Included in the tally was a pair of strikeouts of Federowicz.

Learning to handle more experienced batters has been the biggest adjustment for Harvey at this level of the minor leagues.

"The guys are a lot older," Harvey said following his fourth AA start. "We face guys who are in their mid- to upper-20s and they are strong and if you miss they will make you pay for it even with a wood bat. I would say that is the biggest difference that I have seen, keeping it down and working it inside. I don't think any hitter wants to get sawed off inside and break a bat so you can get inside a lot better."

Harvey was able to get an improved feel for his curve and changeup on Monday night as the game progressed, which will be crucial for his continued success and advancement in professional baseball.

After being the anchor of the Tar Heel pitching rotation and going deep into every start, Harvey has been held to a tighter pitch count by the Mets to start off his career.

"I got used to throwing 120 pitches in a game and I would like to think I am kind of a strikeout guy, so with strikeouts you will throw a lot more pitches than sinker ground ball guys," Harvey discussed. "I am learning now to try to get ahead early and get some early ground balls and last longer in the game."

The recent promotions of former teammates Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager and Alex White to the big leagues – as well as Andrew Miller joining Daniel Bard in Boston -- has not gone unnoticed to the pair of Diamond Heels alumni.

"It is a dream come true for them and it will be for me too," Federowicz said. "It is just that their timing is a little bit better than mine in the organizations that they are in. A team like the Red Sox … unless there is an injury it is tough to move up in an organization like this. … My time will come, I know that. It is going to be fun."

Harvey added, "It is pretty unreal. I was talking with Tim when they came up to Binghamton and we were just saying it seemed like our whole team was making it to the pros and especially with guys he has played with in Andrew Miller and Daniel Bard and those guys. It is pretty tremendous with the turnout of the North Carolina players in the big leagues right now."

The Mets are similar to both the Indians and the Mariners in that there is a lot of opportunity to advance to the 40-man MLB roster as compared to the depth of talent in the Red Sox system. That has not gone unnoticed to Harvey.

"It is always uplifting to know that there is a chance you could be up there," he said. "I just try to block that out and not think about it. I can only control what I do on the mound and the people in the office make their decisions on everything else. I am just happy to be playing baseball."

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