The Big Read: Matt Harvey and the power of the pitching phenom

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In today’s Big Read, Joe Posnanski takes a look at Matt Harvey’s impressive start to his major league career and the idea of pitching phenoms in general. In doing so, Posnanski turns back the clock to examine some other pitchers who dominated early on in their careers, including Steve Rogers, Mark Fidrych, Fernando Valenzuela, Dwight Gooden and Hideo Nomo. It’s a fun ride.

So, when a young pitcher shows up like Matt Harvey with insane fastballs and exploding sliders … there’s something magical about it. Something unlimited. A quarterback, even a perfect one, needs receivers, an offensive line, a running game, a shrewd offensive coordinator. A basketball player, no matter how good, cannot take on five defenders at a time. A pitcher, though, has the ball. He is only limited by the imagination.

And so every time a Hideo Nomo or Dwight Gooden or Matt Harvey shows up on the scene, the possibilities are endless. In many ways, I’ve marked my baseball life by the pitching phenoms who kept showing up.

Great stuff, as always. Speaking of pitching phenoms, Harvey is scheduled to face Marlins’ rookie right-hander Jose Fernandez in his next start on Monday. That’s one tasty matchup.

Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan adds that Saunders will make $1.5 million upon reaching the majors, with a potential $500,000 in bonuses.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.