(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

2016’s hot new trend is batting the pitcher eighth

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Tony La Russa started it with the Cardinals way back in 2007. Joe Maddon’s Cubs and later Bryan Price’s Reds gave it a try last year. It’s 2016, though, that is shaping up as the year of the pitcher batting eighth. Three of the six NL teams playing day games today are going that route:

San Francisco: CF Denard Span, 2B Joe Panik, C Buster Posey, RF Hunter Pence, 1B Brandon Belt, 3B Matt Duffy, SS Brandon Crawford, SP Madison Bumgarner, LF Angel Pagan

Milwaukee: RF Domingo Santana, SS Jonathan Villar, LF Ryan Braun, C Jonathan Lucroy, 1B Chris Carter, 3B Aaron Hill, 2B Scooter Gennett, SP Wily Peralta, CF Keon Broxton

Cincinnati: SS Zack Cozart, 3B Eugenio Suarez, 1B Joey Votto, 2B Brandon Phillips, RF Jay Bruce, LF Adam Duvall, SP Raisel Iglesias, CF Billy Hamilton

Even if none of the NL teams playing later tonight follow suit, just three pitchers batting is a huge rarity. It would have been unheard of before 2015. In the 40 years from 1958-1997, pitchers hit eighth a total of eight times. Even as recently as 2013, there were just three games in which a pitcher hit eighth (and only one of those was by an NL team).

But the pitcher batting eighth seems to make a lot of sense. No. 9 hitters in the AL, even though they’re considerably worse than No. 8 hitters, score more frequently and drive in about 97 percent as many runs (after taking homers out of the equation). In the NL, No. 9 hitters batting behind the pitcher won’t get those RBI opportunities. Still, with all of the quality bats following at the top of the order, ninth is simply the more valuable spot.

Interestingly, though, Joe Maddon, the man who really got this started by hitting his pitcher eighth 140 times last year, is planning on going back to the pitcher in the ninth spot this year. That’s because he thinks Addison Russell, last year’s primary No. 9 hitter, is simply too good not to be put into RBI situations, and he doesn’t feel anyone else would fit there.

5 p.m. EDT update: Make it four teams; the Diamondbacks are going with Zack Greinke eighth and Nick Ahmed ninth tonight.

Angels release Matt Harvey

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Among several transactions made on Sunday, the Angels announced that pitcher Matt Harvey has been released. The right-hander was designated for assignment on Friday.

Harvey, 30, was hoping to bounce back with the Angels after signing a one-year, $11 million contract in December. It didn’t work out. In 12 starts spanning 59 2/3 innings, Harvey allowed 47 earned runs on 63 hits and 29 walks with 39 strikeouts. Harvey missed time between May 24 and July 12 with an upper back injury.

Since his 2015 campaign with the Mets, after recovering from Tommy John surgery, Harvey has a 5.65 ERA in exactly 400 innings. Given his age, he could still find an opportunity with another team short on pitching depth, but he is running out of leash, as they say.