Exactly four months after having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, Matt Harvey stood in the outfield grass at the Mets’ complex Saturday and tossed a baseball 20 times to the bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello about 60 feet away.

Fans lined chain-link fences to try to catch a glimpse. Members of the organization looked on, arms crossed. Jeremy Hefner, another Mets pitcher who had Tommy John surgery last year, watched intently. Jeff Wilpon, the Mets’ owner, chatted with Keith Hernandez, neither watching Harvey very closely.

When Harvey finished, he put his arm around Racaniello and smiled. It was both a momentous and an ordinary occasion. He had thrown for the first time since the operation. Yet he still had a long way to go.

“I felt very good,” Harvey told reporters while sitting in a dugout. “Kind of surprised, actually. Going into it, I didn’t really know what to expect.”
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Before the first throw, he said, he was excited, not nervous; he was worried only that he would throw the ball over Racaniello and into the crowd. When he was able to place the ball where he wanted to, Harvey was pleased.

“I feel brand-new,” he said.

During the operation, on
Oct. 22, Dr. James Andrews took a tendon from Harvey’s wrist and wrapped it three times around the partly torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. Typically, Harvey said, doctors are happy to wrap it once or twice.

“I technically have four ligaments in there, I guess,” he said.

Harvey is scheduled to throw every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, although that is subject to change. There is no firm date when he can start throwing off a mound.

As he fielded questions about his recovery, at one point Harvey stopped and said there was something he wanted “to kind of preach upon.”

“I threw 20 balls at 60 feet,” Harvey said. “I don’t want to have to do this every time I pick up a ball. I don’t think that’s fair to me. I don’t think that’s fair to the team.”

He was repeating the message General Manager Sandy Alderson conveyed before camp opened.

“The story of 2014 is not Matt Harvey,” Alderson said then.

Nevertheless, until Harvey returns, Mets fans will follow his recovery closely. Even Manager Terry Collins said, “It’s going to be tough for me not to watch.”

On Saturday, Harvey said he had a “little guy” in the back of his head — he also made reference to Jiminy Cricket — telling him not to go too strong. It is too soon. Even if all goes right, it is unclear whether Harvey will be able to return this season.