PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — It’s hard to know which opponent will be more challenging for Matt Harvey on Friday – the Detroit Tigers or his own competitive nature.

The New York Mets’ ace is set to pitch in his first game in 18 months and it will be anything but a usual March start.

Harvey’s All-Star season was cut short after a loss to the Tigers on Aug. 24, 2013, when it was discovered he had a tear in an elbow ligament. He had surgery on Oct. 22 and has been waiting for this day ever since.

Still, the big right-hander knows this is just the first step toward a possible opening-day start at Washington on April 6.

“It’s March 6, so we can’t put too much emphasis on the day other than it being 18-plus months since I’ve done something like that,” Harvey said. “It’s still a preparation game and I still have a lot of time to keep moving forward.”

Harvey went 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA and started for the NL in the 2013 All-Star Game, played at the Mets’ Citi Field.

Harvey has had no restrictions this spring. He’s expected to throw no more than two innings, and the Mets’ coaching staff will be keeping close watch to make sure the 25-year-old doesn’t try to do too much.

“That competitive nature that he has, all of a sudden it’s going to be different and he’s going to try to rein himself back, believe me,” Manager Terry Collins said.

“But we’re all anxious to see him get back out there.”

PIRATES: Francisco Cervelli said he has no hard feelings for Alex Rodriguez, whom many suspect is the reason Cervelli got entangled with and suspended for his involvement with the Biogenesis clinic.

Will he talk to Rodriguez before Friday’s game against the Yankees at Steinbrenner Field? “Why not?” Cervelli said. “I don’t have any problems with him.”

But few believe Cervelli and A-Rod, who mentored the catcher when he first came up with the Yankees, are nearly as close as they once were.

“He taught me so many things when I got to the Yankees, so many positive things about the game,” Cervelli said. “But that’s it. I haven’t talked to him (recently).”

Cervelli was among those suspended for 50 games in August 2013, and a “60 Minutes” story later that month said A-Rod and those representing him leaked documents to investigators that implicated other players.

GIANTS: Hunter Pence sustained a fractured left forearm when he was hit by a pitch by Cubs minor leaguer Corey Black during San Francisco’s 8-6 win.

Pence is expected to be sidelined for 6 to 8 weeks.

RANGERS: Ace Yu Darvish left his spring debut with tightness in his right triceps after pitching a scoreless first inning in a 5-4 loss to Kansas City.

Darvish gave up a leadoff single to Alcides Escobar before retiring the next three batters. He threw 10 of 12 pitches for strikes before leaving for precautionary reasons. A team spokesman said he would be re-evaluated Friday.

Darvish was 10-7 with a 3.06 ERA last year before missing most of the final two months with elbow inflammation.

CUBS: Phil Coke agreed to a minor league deal and will join the team’s major league camp Friday, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

Coke, who will compete for a lefty specialist role, was 5-2 with a 3.88 ERA in 62 games for Detroit last season. He has held lefties to a .243 batting average for his career.

PHILLIES: Cliff Lee faced major league hitters for the first time since July 31, when his season ended with an elbow injury.

The 36-year-old 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner gave up two hits in two scoreless innings during a 6-3 loss to Houston.

MARLINS: Giancarlo Stanton was hitless in his first two at-bats in a major league game – a 4-1 win over St. Louis – since being struck in the face by a pitch last September.

Stanton wore a helmet with a partial face mask that protected the left side of his face, where he broke his orbital bone and damaged several teeth when he was hit by a pitch from Mike Fiers that ended his season.

CARDINALS: After a lengthy side session that was more a test of his arm than his abdomen, starter Adam Wainwright confirmed that he’ll be ready to face hitters as soon as Sunday. Wainwright has had his spring schedule slowed by an abdominal strain.