Matt Harvey strikes out 11 in major league debut

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The Mets weren’t entirely sure Matt Harvey was ready, but the 2010 first-round pick sure looked the part in his debut Thursday against the Diamondbacks.

While pitching 5 1/3 scoreless innings, Harvey became just the 13th pitcher in major league history to strike out at least 11 batters in his debut. He allowed three hits and walked three on his way to getting the victory in the Mets’ 3-1 win.

The major league record of strikeouts in a debut is 15, established by the Dodgers’ Karl Spooner in 1954 and matched by the Astros’ J.R. Richard in 1971. Stephen Strasburg fanned 14 in his first start two years ago. Besides Strasburg, the most recent pitcher to strike out at least 11 batters in his debut was Oakland’s Tim Hudson in 1999.

Harvey definitely seemed amped up tonight, throwing 95-98 mph instead of his usual 93-96 mph. He wasn’t flawless when it came to command, but Diamondbacks hitters were swinging right through his fastball and slider. It looks like he’ll be a force to be reckoned with, perhaps in the batter’s box as well. He doubled and singled in his only two at-bats tonight.

Blue Jays release John Axford

John Axford
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The Blue Jays have released right-handed reliever John Axford from his minor league contract, per an announcement on Saturday. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi speculates that the move could provide an avenue for the club to rework Axford’s contract, but the Blue Jays have yet to confirm or deny the report.

Axford, 35, was dealt a blow on Thursday after getting diagnosed with a stress reaction in the olecranon bone of his right elbow. Elbow soreness dogged the right-hander through much of his time in camp, and although he was scheduled for a follow-up examination later this spring, a definite return date had not been established.

Prior to the diagnosis, Axford was tabbed for a setup role with the team in 2019. He pitched to mixed results in 2018 (thanks in part to a late-season fracture of his right fibula) with a 5.27 ERA, 4.9 BB/9, and 9.8 SO/9 through 54 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Now, however, it’s not certain that he’ll return to the mound this season in any capacity.

Axford isn’t the only reliever the Blue Jays have lost to injury lately, either, as right-handers Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris have been sidelined with right elbow inflammation and forearm fatigue, respectively. Per Davidi, the Blue Jays offered Norris a $100,000 retention bonus to prevent him from opting out of the minor league contract he signed in February.