Italy invades Phoenix, Mike Piazza handicaps the papal election

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Today’s matchup pits Team Italy against the A’s. The Italian team got here about an hour or so ago and is working out and taking BP now. They look like every other baseball team you’ll see. Except on this one, Nick Punto is probably the second best player. That doesn’t happen very often.

Oh, and one of their coaches might be their third best player:

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Piazza seems to be in a good mood. He’s got a son on the way. He’s got a book out. Life is good. He’s also, apparently, a man of the world. I was talking to A’s broadcaster Vince Cotroneo when Piazza came over. They’ve known each other a while, and they began a friendly chat about things Italian. The subject of the new pope came up and Vince asked him “who he has in the pool.”

“I sort of like the old guy from Ghana,” Piazza said.  I guess he means Peter Turkson. “Old guy from Ghana” pretty much saps HBT’s knowledge of the higher reaches of the Catholic church.

I watched Italian BP for a while. This is probably my favorite BP pitcher in the history of forever:

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I don’t know who he is. He’s wearing number 15 but the press information doesn’t list a player or coach on the Italian team with that number. I’m just going to pretend he slid here from another dimension. A dimension in which some baseball player suddenly found himself in a Fellini movie.

If you’re scoring at home here is the Italian lineup:

Nick Punto, 2B
Chris Denorfia, CF
Anthony Rizzo, 1B
Alex Liddi, 3B
Chris Colabello, DH
Mike Costanzo, LF
Mario Chiarini, RF
Drew Butera, C
Anthony Granato, SS

The starting pitcher is John Mariotti. Earlier it was listed as Luca Panerati. During his presser this morning, A’s manager Bob Melvin was asked if he knew anything about Panerati. Melvin paused for a few seconds and said “… I know he’s a pitcher.”

This should be a fun game. Can’t wait until the national anthems.

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.