Scenes from Spring Training: Few people, good seats

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Despite it being perhaps the most beautiful day since I’ve been down here, it’s a near-empty ballpark today.  I guess you’ll have that when it’s the Royals and the Padres, neither of which are what you’d call national draws.

But the good thing about it was that I was able to wander down to a seat in the front row right behind the dugout and take the game in like a civilized human being.  It helped me get pics like that one of Luke Hochevar. And here’s one of Mat Latos:

I’m surprised he didn’t break my camera, because he was ugly. He threw 34 pitches. Only 15 for strikes. He walked four guys in the first inning, but avoided giving up a run thanks to a nice diving grab by Aaron Cunningham in right field and thanks to Nick Hundley throwing a guy out stealing. Who was probably safe, but don’t worry your pretty little head about that because it’s still spring training for the umps too.  Latos left after an inning and a third. Didn’t allow a hit, though, so I’m going to pretend it was the first no-hitter I’ve ever seen in person.

And here was something else fun to see from my seat on the first base line:

Dave Roberts, yo. Back from cancer treatment and manning the box.  Glad to see him there.

The game is still early, but it’s very spring trainingy so far. The pitchers don’t quite have a lock on the strike zone.  The base running has been fun, though, with the Royals trying to steal almost every time they get on.  I just popped back into the box to post this and got a pretty good explanation for it. Seems that Billy Butler was the only Royal to have stolen a base before today and he was crowing to everyone who would listen that he leads the team in steals. People wanted to shut him up, it seems.

It’s the top of the fourth. Time to head back to my good seats.

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.