Pirates designate Akinori Iwamura for assignment

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To make room for top prospect Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates on Wednesday designated big offseason acquisition Akinori Iwamura for assignment.
The Pirates picked up Iwamura from the Rays in November for reliever Jesse Chavez. But more important than the talent surrendered for him — Chavez was later dealt to Atlanta for Rafael Soriano and is now back in Triple-A — was that Pittsburgh took on a $4.85 million commitment in order to solidify their second-base situation.
It seemed like a safe enough play, if not the wisest way for a likely fifth- or sixth-place team to spend money. Iwamura, 31, was remarkably consistent in his three seasons with Tampa Bay, finishing with OPSs of 770, 729 and 745. He also proved to be an above average defender at second after moving off the hot corner to make room for Evan Longoria.
Iwamura, though, was a disaster for the Pirates, hitting just .182/.292/.267 in 165 at-bats. Primarily a leadoff man, he had scored just 18 runs all season. He had driven in nine.
Given his success in the other league and his ability to play two infield positions pretty well, Iwamura shouldn’t have to wait long to find work after clearing waivers. The Twins would be an obvious fit, given their injury problems and their poor production from third base. The Tigers, Angels, Yankees, A’s, Blue Jays and White Sox are other possibilities. Most would probably want him to head to Triple-A for a few weeks to find his swing, but it’s possible some team would give him a chance right away.

Mets to move Matt Harvey to the bullpen

Matt Harvey
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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.