CINCINNATI (AP) — Matt Harvey is getting another chance, this time with a historically bad team in a city that will have far fewer late-night temptations than the Big Apple. The Mets are getting a catcher who can help at their most unsettled position.
The Reds acquired the former New York ace for catcher Devin Mesoraco on Tuesday, shortly before Cincinnati pulled away to a 7-2 victory at Great American Ball Park.
The deal provided a fresh start for two former All-Stars whose careers have been sidetracked by injuries.
Mesoraco merely had to walk to the visiting clubhouse and was on the bench for the first pitch by Luis Castillo, which Mesoraco originally supposed to catch. He was still wearing his Reds socks when he headed for the New York clubhouse, where attendants were sewing his name on the back of a Mets uniform.
“Just kind of surreal,” Mesoraco said. “A whirlwind. A lot happened in 15 minutes.”
He pinch hit in the ninth and took a called third strike as New York lost for the seventh time in eight games.
The Mets created a spot for him to play immediately when they put third baseman Todd Frazier was put on the 10-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring. Harvey is in Los Angeles working out and will join the team for the start of a series there against the Dodgers on Thursday.
The Mets lost starting catcher Travis d’Arnaud to season-ending Tommy John surgery last month, so Mesoraco gives them another option.
“We feel fortunate that we were able to add a veteran guy who’s good in the clubhouse who can play a couple of days a week,” said J.P. Ricciardi, a Mets special assistant. “We talked to Jay (Bruce) and Todd (Frazier) about him.”
The Reds agreed to pay the Mets $5,788,978 as part of the trade, which made the deal come out nearly even financially. Harvey is making $5,625,000 on a one-year contract. Mesoraco gets $13 million in the final season on a four-year, $28 million deal.
The 29-year-old Harvey was designated for assignment on Saturday, giving the Mets seven days to trade or release him when he refused a demotion to the minors. Harvey was 0-2 with a 7.00 ERA this season.
The Reds were 8-27 at the time of the trade, matching the worst 35-game start in franchise history, with the rotation their most glaring problem. Harvey will move into the rotation immediately.
“When he became available, we were interested,” interim manager Jim Riggleman said. “We were saying, ‘We hope we’re in the mix.'”
General manager Dick Williams said the Reds checked into Harvey’s off-field conduct — he was suspended for three days without pay last May for skipping a game following a late night on the town — but were mostly concerned about his recent pitching.
“We primarily looked at video and scouting reports as a pitcher,” Williams said. “We made some calls to find out some things, but it was mainly mechanical.”
The Reds gave up a catcher who no longer fit their long-term plans. Mesoraco was batting .220 in 18 games with one homer and three RBIs, playing a backup role to Gold Glove winner Tucker Barnhart.
“New place, new team, maybe that will be a sparkplug for him,” Mets manager Mickey Callaway said.
Harvey was no longer in New York’s plans after four failed starts and four relief appearances in which he was hit hard. His path in the majors has been similar to Mesoraco’s.
Harvey was nicknamed the Dark Knight and started the 2013 All-Star Game on his home mound at Citi Field. He returned from Tommy John surgery in 2015 and helped the Mets reach their first World Series in 15 years.
It was a steep slide the last few years. He fell to 4-10 record with a 4.86 ERA in 2016 and had season-ending surgery in July. Last year, Harvey went 5-7 with a 6.70 ERA and was sidelined from mid-June until September because of an injury to the scapula in his right shoulder.
The 29-year-old Mesoraco also has significantly declined because of injuries since his All-Star season in 2014, when he led all major catchers with 25 homers and 80 RBIs. Hip, shoulder and foot injuries limited him to 95 games over the next three seasons, when he hit only six homers and drove in 17 runs.
“I have the opportunity to show I’m still capable of playing,” Mesoraco said.
AP Baseball Writer Ron Blum in New York and freelance writer Mark Schmetzer in Cincinnati contributed to this report.
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