It’s reasonable to wonder whether Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon is going to face a fine or suspension (or both) for getting in the face of home plate umpire Tony Randazzo during Saturday’s 9-8 extra-innings victory over the Athletics.
Papelbon charged at Randazzo and appeared to make slight contact with his chest protector after getting the heave-ho for questioning the strike zone with a stare down. It was the ninth inning, and Papelbon had just allowed Oakland to tie the game at 7-7. MLB.com has the video here.
Papelbon spent a couple of minutes on the topic with reporters after Saturday’s game. It doesn’t sound like he’s expecting a suspension.
“From my perspective,” Papelbon said, “I had my back turned and did not turn around. He’s got his hands up, and I’m not even talking to him. I was talking to Salty (catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia). I said, ‘Salty, ‘Hey come out here. I need to know where that’s at. I felt like some pitches I was not getting were strikes and I threw one that I felt like was a ball and then he called it a strike, and I more or less was trying to get Salty out here and say, ‘Hey come talk to me, let’s figure out this zone so I know how to go about this.’ Because I had no idea what his zone was. … It’s not like I pushed him or anything. … The league’s going to come down on me the way they want to, whether they believe me or not, but I wasn’t trying to maliciously bump him or anything. I haven’t looked at the replay or anything.”
The MLB commissioner’s office was all quiet on Sunday, but a ruling could be made early this week. Nationals infielder Jerry Hairston Jr. made a similar kind of contact with a home plate umpire during the last week of May and received a one-game suspension. Papelbon is likely facing something similar.
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.