Just ten percent of players are given drug tests in the offseason

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Michael S. Schmidt of the New York Times details a report quietly released by Major League Baseball a couple of weeks ago in which it was revealed that, in the 2010 offseason, only 10 percent of major league baseball players were given drug tests. These tests constituted just three percent of all drug tests given by baseball in 2010.

These offseason rates are significantly lower than the offseason rates seen in the NFL and Olympic sports and, given that players’ normal routines involve using the offseason for more intense workouts than they do during the regular season, it represents a pretty big loophole. Both the union and the league told Schmidt that offseason testing is an item on the agenda for the new Collective Bargaining Agreement which will be negotiated this year.

The biggest question I have is, practically speaking, how can you increase this frequency in anything approaching a fair way? Some players live two miles from the team’s spring training headquarters all winter long. Some live in the middle of nowhere, Mississippi. Others live in Japan, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. Unlike the NFL — in which there are numerous pre-scheduled offseason activities like minicamps — there is no time when ballplayers are truly accessible to their team in such a way as to make offseason drug testing a truly random or even arguably comprehensive thing.

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.