SEATTLE -- After yet another rough outing on Thursday against the Astros, the Angels designated veteran right-hander Matt Harvey for assignment before Friday’s game against the Mariners.
Harvey gave up six runs over six innings against Houston, giving him a 7.09 ERA in 12 starts. Among pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched this season, Harvey had the fifth-worst ERA. The Angels signed the 30-year-old right-hander to a one-year, $11 million contract as a free agent in December.
“The decision was made because we felt it would increase our chances of winning games,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “Matt was a very well-liked teammate. A guy everyone pulled for, including myself. But we’re in the business of winning baseball games. And I talked to [general manager] Billy [Eppler] and we felt this was the best moving going forward to help us win baseball games.”
Harvey missed much of the first half with an upper back strain, which sidelined him from May 23 through the All-Star break. He returned and made one of his best starts of the season on Saturday against the Mariners, allowing just one run in 5 2/3 innings, before the former Mets ace’s struggles resurfaced on Thursday against Houston.
While on his rehab assignment in the Minor Leagues, Harvey worked to improve his velocity and it was slightly better in his return with his fastball topping out at 94 mph, but he still had trouble missing bats. Harvey induced just three swinging strikes against the Astros, and gave up a lot of hard contact, including two homers and eight batted balls that had an exit velocity of at least 100 mph, according to Statcast.
“He’s not throwing 97, but he’s not throwing 89 either,” Ausmus said. “He’s 93ish and he’s got four pitches. He’s got the ability to get Major League hitters out. He’s just gotta harness it.”
Harvey's DFA comes as part of a series of roster moves by the Angels, who also optioned right-hander Jake Jewell to Triple-A Salt Lake and recalled right-hander Jaime Barria and two-way player Jared Walsh from Salt Lake. With Harvey out of the mix, Barria is expected to replace him in the rotation going forward. The Angels, though, still are without a fifth starter, but rookie lefty Jose Suarez could fill that role once he’s eligible to be recalled again on Thursday.
When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers. Even if Harvey is not claimed by another the club or traded, the Angels are expected to release him.
“I talked to Harvey today and I think he’s appreciative of the opportunity,” Ausmus said. “But I also think he should be looking forward to joining another club and returning to some kind of Major League form that he can be successful at. I’m pulling for him to do well. It didn’t happen here, but that doesn’t mean I don’t pull for that stuff.”
Harvey, who has dealt with several injuries in recent years, including thoracic outlet syndrome in 2016, is the second notable free-agent signing the Angels have DFA’d this season, as reliever Cody Allen was DFA’d in mid-June after signing a one-year deal worth $8.5 million. Right-hander Trevor Cahill was signed to a one-year, $9 million deal and was moved to the bullpen.
Pujols expected to return Saturday
First baseman Albert Pujols was held out of the lineup on Friday after experiencing left hamstring tightness in Thursday’s game against the Astros. Matt Thaiss started at first base in his absence, but Pujols is expected to be back on Saturday.
“Albert feels good,” Ausmus said. “There’s not really any soreness when he’s walking, which is a good sign. But he’s just not going to play as a precautionary move. Hopefully, assuming he’s completely fine tomorrow and after doing some tests and the medical staff clears him, he’ll be back in there tomorrow.”
Middleton suffers setback
Reliever Keynan Middleton, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, was diagnosed with mild ulnar neuritis in his right elbow after undergoing an MRI exam. It’s a nerve issue that is causing tingling and numbness in his throwing hand. He’s being shut down from throwing and the Angels will continue to evaluate him back in Anaheim, but the good news is that his UCL is still intact.
“The UCL graft is good,” Ausmus said. “We’re not concerned about that. It’ll probably set him back a little bit but we don’t expect it to be long.”