Aroldis Chapman was a mess last night, walking three of the five batters he faced after coming into a tie game in extra innings and being removed mid-inning for the first time all season.
Within that ugly performance he threw 22 pitches and none of them topped 97 miles per hour while many of Chapman’s fastballs were in the low-90s. For a guy who averages 98 miles per hour with his fastball, frequently hits triple-digits, and regularly throws his slider in the low-90s that qualifies as a red flag.
Here’s what manager Dusty Baker said afterward, via Mark Sheldon of MLB.com:
Yeah, because his velocity was down. He didn’t have any pain. He might be a little tired. We might have to rest him for a while here. He was analyzed by a doctor. The doctor said his shoulder is fatigued. We’ve got to take care of him.
Cincinnati’s big 9.5-game lead in the NL Central provides more than enough cushion to be extremely cautious with Chapman, so hopefully they take advantage. Chapman also blew a save and took a loss Friday, serving up a three-run homer among four total hits, so it seems pretty safe to say that something isn’t right.
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.