Aaron Harang throwing

Aaron Harang says struggles stemmed from 2008 relief appearance

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It wasn’t too long ago that Aaron Harang was considered one of baseball’s most durable workhorses. For example, he tossed a total of 677 2/3 innings between 2005-07. Only Brandon Webb and Johan Santana logged more innings during that time period.

Harang had a very respectable 3.50 ERA over his first 11 starts into the 2008 season, but the big right-hander tells Don Norcross of the San Diego Union-Tribune that everything changed after Dusty Baker asked him to make a four-inning relief appearance against the Padres on just three days’ rest.

Including his next start four days later, Harang threw a total of 239 pitches in three games over the course of eight days. The damage was done.

“What it did,” said Harang, “is fatigue me beyond the point of recovery. I started to change my arm angle to compensate for the fatigue and that’s when my forearm started to bother me.”

Harang tried to pitch through the injury initially, but eventually spent over a month on the disabled list later that summer. He has an ugly 5.00 ERA over 379 2/3 innings since the relief appearance in question. While he feels healthy now, he’s still trying to get his mechanics back in order.

“I feel like I’ve never been able to get back to the consistent, repetitive mechanics that I had,” he said. “The last couple of years have been, ‘Try this, try that. Move your arm angle out a little.’

“I’ve had a couple of my old coaches call me, asking, ‘What are you doing? You had so much success before doing the same thing. Now, all of a sudden, you’re turning your back on that?’

“I got away from my main thing, which is throwing my fastball (primarily) and throwing everything off that. I got to thinking I’m going to trick people and it just didn’t work.”

Harang may never be a top-of-the-rotation starter again, but there’s reason for optimism now that he has signed with his hometown Padres. He should find PETCO Park to be a much more forgiving environment than Great American Ballpark ever was. The good news is that Harang’s secondary numbers haven’t been nearly as ugly as his ERA, so it might not take much for him to be a real bargain for Padres GM Jed Hoyer.

Johnny Monell signs with KBO’s KT Wiz

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 06:  Johnny Monell #19 of the New York Mets runs back to the dugout after he scored in the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on July 6, 2015 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Former Mets catcher Johnny Monell signed a contract with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a report by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 30-year-old originally struck a deal with the NC Dinos on Thursday, but the deal appeared to fall through at the last minute, according to Cotillo’s unnamed source.

Monell last surfaced for the Mets during their 2015 run, batting a dismal .167/.231/.208 with two extra bases in 52 PA before the club DFA’d him to clear space for Bartolo Colon. While he’s had difficulty sticking at the major league level, he’s found a higher degree of success in the minor league circuit and holds a career .271 average over a decade of minor league play. He played exclusively in Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2016 season, slashing .276/.336/.470 with 19 home runs and a career-high 75 RBI in 461 PA.

The veteran backstop appears to be the second MLB player to join the KT Wiz roster this offseason, as right-hander Donn Roach also signed with the club last month on a one-year, $850,000 deal.

Phil Bickford suspended 50 games for drug of abuse

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  Phil Bickford of the U.S. Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park on July 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.

Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.

Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.

Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):

We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.