First comes shock, then denial

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Kurt Helin, at our NBC corporate cousin in Los Angeles, thinks that the Dodgers recent swoon is a good thing in that it will cause them to be challeneged and make their stomach muscles ripple and all of that:

Coasting can lead to a flat team not ready to rise to a challenge — and a couple months back that looked like the Dodgers. But their mediocre play has closed their lead and forced them to focus.

Now they have to be sharp. That will carry over into the playoffs (which the Dodgers almost certainly will still make).

Hey, I love optimism as much as the next guy, and to be fair to Kurt, that was written before last night’s extra-innings loss to the Rockies.  But I have a hard time buying this argument. 

Coasting into the playoffs may not have worked for last year’s Angels team (Helin’s primary example), but you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone in baseball who wouldn’t rather have a rested bullpen, experienced bench players and the ability to set up their rotation just the way they want to heading into October.

And of course, there’s the small matter of a team not being able to simply step on the gas when they want too.  Personally, I’d rather have to figure out a way to motivate a team that coasts into the playoffs than to have a sharply-honed and battle tested team that finishes a game out.  Wouldn’t you?

(link via BTF)

Mets to move Matt Harvey to the bullpen

Matt Harvey
AP Images
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Mets right-hander Matt Harvey is heading to the bullpen, according to comments made by club manager Mickey Callaway on Saturday. As predicted, Harvey doesn’t appear to be taking the news particularly well, going so far as to tell Callaway that the decision has him “at a 10 with being pissed off” and that he’s motivated to prove himself as a starter.

It’s been rough going for Harvey this spring. After missing significant time to a shoulder injury last season, the 29-year-old righty returned to the mound with a lot left to prove. He pitched to an 0-2 record in four starts, issuing 14 runs, four home runs and 17 strikeouts in 21 innings. It’s been a while since the Mets have seen anything better out of their starter — he hasn’t turned in a sub-4.00 ERA since 2015 and hasn’t pitched well enough to earn an All-Star berth since 2013 — and now it appears they’re at the end of their rope.

At this point, the Mets insist that the shift is a temporary one. While Callaway has helped successfully convert several starters to the bullpen, including Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco, that’s not the plan for this veteran right-hander. Instead, both the team and Harvey seem to view the change as a way to clear up any mental blocks Harvey may be encountering on the mound. “We know he’s healthy,” assistant GM John Ricco told reporters. “He’s feeling good. Then you get to, is this a little bit of a mental thing, a confidence thing? One of the things we talk about is getting him into the ‘pen, where he can have success in short spurts, get that confidence back and really let it go and get back to being a guy who can dominate the way he’s shown in the past.”

Harvey will be eligible to pitch out of the bullpen on Tuesday, when the Mets are scheduled to kick off their next road series against the Cardinals. As for his replacement, left-hander Jason Vargas will resume his role in the rotation when he comes off the disabled list next Saturday.