What’s happening? – The Orioles were anticipating the spring debut of oft-injured pitching prospect Hunter Harvey on Tuesday, and while that went relatively well, another Orioles pitching prospect looks to be headed to the shelf.
Lefty Chris Lee replaced Harvey in the third inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Port Charlotte, Fla., on Tuesday and threw two pitches before leaving with what manager Buck Showalter said has been initially diagnosed as a right oblique injury.
Lee, 25, will be further examined today, but oblique strains often linger and can sideline a player anywhere between three and six weeks. Orioles slugger Chris Davis missed a month last year with an oblique strain and closer Zach Britton lost a chunk of last spring with a similar malady.
Oblique injuries have become commonplace in baseball, and Showalter has a theory as to why.
“I can see (it with) the position players. I think they are taking more swings, they have more avenues for reps than ever before. But pitchers, I think the (radar) gun has a lot to do with it,” Showalter said. “Everybody’s trying to torque every pitch, everything is max effort in today’s game and I think that’s why you are seeing so many obliques (injuries). Just a lot more stress, it seems like.”
Lee missed a chunk of 2016 with a lat/shoulder injury and then struggled through much of 2017 at Triple-A Norfolk. A former fourth round pick of the Houston Astros whom the Orioles acquired in 2015, Lee was ticketed for the Tides’ rotation in 2018. He’ll likely end up there, but it’s possible he now may have to start the season in extended spring.
What’s happened? – Hunter Harvey pitched against big leaguers. That’s really all you have to know about Tuesday.
Harvey, the club’s top pick in 2013 (22nd overall), started the first Grapefruit League game of his career Tuesday, allowing one run on three hits in two innings. He struck out three, walked one and got out of a jam with a double-play ball.
“It felt awesome, felt good to be back on the mound and face hitters again,” said Harvey, who has battled injuries throughout his career and is coming back from elbow-ligament (Tommy John) surgery in 2016.
Harvey threw 36 pitches, 20 for strikes, mixing in changeups and curveballs with a fastball that consistently hit 95 mph on the stadium radar gun. All the hits he allowed were singles; two to veteran, left-handed hitters Denard Span and Kevin Kiermaier to begin the game.
“It’s just weird,” Harvey, 23, said. “I remember watching Denard Span play for a long time. So, it was cool to face him. It was cool to get in there and get some big league hitters, and kind of get a taste of it.”
Showalter was impressed, both by Harvey’s arsenal and his composure.
“Good, real good. Fun to watch,” Showalter said. “I’m happy for him, excited. It’s more than just the stuff. It’s the way he carries himself, and he has a lot of things that you look for off the ball, so to speak, other than just pitching. It’s hopefully going to be a fun year for him.”
Where Harvey is going to start the year is the big question. Because he hasn’t pitched much as a pro, he’s a real longshot to make the Orioles out of spring training, no matter how he throws. But he could begin at Double-A Bowie or High-A Frederick and quickly climb the ladder.
Showalter said Harvey could force the Orioles to make some hard decisions if he pitches well.
“That’s my goal,” Harvey said. “Coming into camp, it’s nice, they told me in the offseason, ‘Hey, you are up in the air now, you’re just like anybody else.’ You hear that and it puts a little fire in you.”
Showalter wouldn’t fully commit to giving Harvey more spring starts, but hinted that it could happen. So, count on it happening.
“I love starting. Been able to get in my own routine, like I always have,” Harvey said. “Pitched out of the bullpen a couple times in spring training. It’s different. I can handle it; it’s different. But I love starting.”
** Outfielder Austin Hays, who initially was supposed to play outfield Tuesday, was switched to DH. He went hitless in four at-bats. The club’s top prospect has been dealing with a right lat/shoulder issue and will undergo a MRI this morning.
** Showalter said Kevin Gausman is expected to stay on turn for his next start Saturday against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater, Fla., but the manager wants to wait another day or so before making the final decision. Gausman will have a workday either today or Thursday.
Gausman left Monday’s outing after colliding with Detroit Tigers’ infielder Jeimer Candelario, who was in the on-deck circle while Gausman was attempting to back up a play at the plate. Gausman suffered a cut near his left eye and had some back soreness, but overall was not injured.
** Miguel Castro, who has been sidelined with knee and back issues, threw a bullpen session Tuesday. It went well and he is ticketed for starting a ‘B’ game Friday.
** Andrew Cashner, who has not pitched yet for the Orioles after signing a free-agent deal, will throw a live batting practice session Thursday.
What’s up with? – Alex Presley. The Colby Rasmus signing received more attention, but the Orioles have another left-handed-hitting veteran in the mix for the outfield. Presley, 32, signed a minor-league deal before Rasmus did, and he’s actually had more success recently.
Last year in 264 plate appearances with the Detroit Tigers, Presley hit .314 with a .354 on-base percentage. – career highs in his eight seasons in the big leagues. What was the difference?
“I got a chance to play more consistently than I have in the past at the major league level. And just maturity, overall. I think that was a big deal for me,” Presley said. “I’ve been through a lot of different situations and have just learned how to handle them over time. And I think those experiences cumulatively came together at one time.”
Presley entered Tuesday with four hits in eight at-bats this spring, but went hitless in three trips to the plate against Tampa Bay. He said his objective is simple: Do whatever is asked and try to win an outfield spot.
“I think I’m just trying to get them to see me on a daily basis more than anything and see what I can do every day instead of just looking at numbers,” Presley said. “They can get their eyes on me and they can see for themselves.”
What’s what? – Not only did the Orioles have their top pitching prospect on the mound Tuesday in Harvey, they also had their top position prospects batting in consecutive order from fourth to sixth: Hays, Chance Sisco and Ryan Mountcastle. The future could be bright, but it was cloudy in the second inning, when all three struck out. Lefty Dan Runzler fanned Sisco and Mountcastle, and Hays was struck out by Nate Eovaldi, who retired all four batters he faced in his first Grapefruit League outing since Tommy John surgery in 2016.
What’s the word? – “Really, just controlling my body I kind of felt a little crazy out there. I guess it’s just the first time being out there in a long time. Trying to get my body back under me and just command the ball a little better.” – Hunter Harvey on what he needs to do better his next time on the mound.
What’s the number? — 4. The Orioles have played six games this Grapefruit League season so far and four times the club’s starter has lasted exactly two innings and given up one run. That’s what Harvey did Tuesday and what Nestor Cortes, Mike Wright and Gabriel Ynoa have done, too. The only ones who have posted different results are the only two of the group assured rotation spots: Dylan Bundy and Gausman. Bundy allowed five runs in two innings and Gasuman gave up five runs in 1 1/3.
What’s the record? — 1-4-1. Well, they won’t go winless. The Orioles won their first Grapefruit League game in their sixth try. The Orioles beat the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1. Garabez Rosa had a homer and a double to pace a six-hit attack. The Orioles host the St. Louis Cardinals today with Wright starting his second Grapefruit League contest this year.