2013 Preview: The National League West

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For the past few days we’ve been previewing the 2013 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the National League West.

The National League West will be portrayed by many as two alpha teams (the Giants and Dodgers), a beta team (the Diamondbacks) and a couple of pretenders (the Padres and the Rockies).  This is, we feel, an unfair characterization.

The Giants are an alpha team as all defending World Series champions should be. Their pitching is great, their offensive leaders are young and in their prime and they are managed by one of the steadier hands in the game in Bruce Bochy. The Dodgers, due to all of their payroll expansion and star power, may very well be too, but there is a lot of uncertainty with that team in terms of injuries and in terms of how all of those disparate parts can come together. After all, much of that star power didn’t gel in Boston, so it’s not a given it will gel in L.A.

The Diamondbacks are a talented bunch, but they too are suffering from injuries and it remains to be seen if their focus on hard-nosed, gritty character guys like Martin Prado and the like will work as well as having insanely talented young sluggers in the fold like Justin Upton.

The Padres are being undersold, we believe. They lack star power but they have youth on their side and many players who can be expected to improve. Maybe not a playoff team, but not an also-ran either. We believe they may surprise.

The Rockies, well, OK. They’re the Rockies and probably don’t have the pitching to compete. It’s the same old story in Colorado now as it has always been.

Below are our team-by-team previews for the NL West as well as our HBT Extra feature on the division. Enjoy.

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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.