Since Hunter Harvey was picked in the first round of the 2013 draft, the Orioles have gone though five pitching coaches, and he has pitched just 176 2/3 innings in his professional career.
At 24, Harvey is hoping that this will finally be the year he makes it to the major leagues. Last April, just before his season with Double-A Bowie began, Harvey was called up to the Orioles, sat in the bullpen for three nights and went back to Bowie to begin his season.
Although Harvey endured another season truncated by injury, his 32 1/3 innings with the Baysox were the second most he’s thrown.
His 5.57 ERA wasn’t good, but there were times when he reminded onlookers of the talent the Orioles thought they had. On April 27, he breezed through four shutout innings at Akron, allowing just two hits, walking one and striking out six.
Harvey threw as many as five innings twice and as many as 85 pitches but didn’t appear in a game after June 1. He injured his shoulder trying to avoid an errant foul ball, and when he was ready to return, his forearm flared up and his season ended.
Now, Harvey is ready again.
“I’m doing really good. I’m felling really good,” Harvey said at the Jan. 26 FanFest at the Baltimore Convention Center. “Body feels good. I’m excited for baseball.”
Harvey began throwing the week of FanFest, and he reported no issues.
“I worked my butt off this offseason again,” Harvey said. “Just trying to prevent injuries. It’s been tough the last few years and, hopefully, we can put everything together this year.”
In six professional seasons, Harvey has yet to pitch through one. The closest he came was in 2014 when he threw 87 2/3 innings for Low-A Delmarva before his season ended in late July when his elbow began hurting.
Two years later, Harvey, who didn’t pitch at all in 2015, underwent Tommy John surgery. He returned in late 2017 and threw a pain-free 18 2/3 innings, and the Orioles were hoping for Harvey to finally make it to Baltimore last season.
It seems natural that Harvey would think about his injury each time he throws.
“When I first start playing catch, you think about it a little bit,” Harvey said. “As the weeks go on, it kind of drifts away. I haven’t felt anything but normal soreness now. It’s nothing again, and I’m not worried about it.”
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde has no preconceptions about Harvey or any other of the 59 players he’ll be seeing when spring training opens in Sarasota, Fla., on Feb. 12.
On the other hand, Harvey has his mind made up about Hyde. He likes him. When he was just 11, his older brother Kris played for Hyde when he was a second-year manager at Low-A Greensboro. He doesn’t remember Hyde well, but Kris and his father, Bryan, a longtime major league pitcher, have a favorable impression of Hyde.
“They’re new, but I’m sort of familiar with them,” Harvey said.
He doesn’t think his years of idleness have affected his stuff.
“I feel like it’s better,” Harvey said. “Even though I’m not playing, I’m still working on my mechanics, working on baseball stuff in general. Even though I’m not throwing, I know most of that stuff’s there. Even though I’ve been hurt, I get back up to throw bullpens, keep my arm going a little. I just can’t get back to the pitching level. Last year and starting this year, everything’s feeling as good as it’s ever been.”
Harvey made some adjustments in the offseason that he hopes help.
“I hired a personal trainer this offseason to kind of whup me into shape a little better,” Harvey said. “I’m going in with the same mindset. I’m there for a reason. I’m going to try to pitch my butt off and work my tail off and just try and make this team.”
Last year, there was an outside possibility that Harvey could have started the season with the Orioles, but the late signing of Alex Cobb forced him to go back to the minor leagues. Without defined starters, Harvey knows the chance is there for him again.
“I’d like to stay healthy,” he said. “Hopefully, it’s at the big league level. Same thing I was saying last year. I just want to pitch a full season.”