Joe Saunders escapes jam to preserve 1-1 tie vs. Rangers through four innings

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Most didn’t give Joe Saunders much of a chance against the Rangers in this game, especially after seeing how Ron Washington stacked his lineup with right-handed batters, but he has allowed one run through four innings to preserve a 1-1 tie.

It hasn’t been easy, though. Saunders walked Ian Kinsler to begin the game. Elvis Andrus then followed with a single to move Kinsler to third. It looked like he was on the ropes three batters into the game, but Saunders got Josh Hamilton to ground into a double-play to kill the rally. A run scored on the play, but the Orioles gladly took it.

The Rangers just threatened again in the bottom of the fourth inning, as Nelson Cruz and Michael Young had consecutive singles with one out. However, Saunders was able to get Mike Napoli to strike out swinging before getting Geovany Soto to ground into a fielder’s choice.

Saunders has allowed one run on five hits and a walk while striking out five. He has flipped the order over two times with minimal damage. Can’t ask for much more than that given the circumstances.

UPDATE: Make that five innings of one-run ball. You know, just like everybody expected.

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.