BOWIE, Md.—Hunter Harvey is scheduled for his second start on Friday in what he hopes will be his first complete professional season.
Harvey, the Orioles’ No. 1 draft choice in 2013, has never thrown as many as 90 innings in a season. He had a difficult first start against Harrisburg last Friday, giving up five runs, four earned, on 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings.
The 24-year-old right-hander thought he was healthy last season until he hurt his shoulder in the dugout last June trying to get out of the way of a foul ball.
The Orioles had hoped Harvey would pitch for the team in 2018, and his innings with the Baysox were being carefully monitored. He’d thrown only 32 1/3 innings in nine starts when he was hurt and done for the year.
In 2019, Baysox manager Buck Britton said that Harvey won’t be under similar restrictions.
“I think Harvey’s good to go,” Britton said at last week’s Baysox media day.
“We’re going to have pitch counts early in the year. We just can’t throw them out there [and expect] a complete-game shutout every night. We’ve got to ease them into it, but I think Harvey’s a guy, the gloves are off. We’re hoping that he can develop into that top of the rotation that everybody’s hoping for.”
Harvey had a 5.57 ERA in those nine starts last year.
“It’s always nice knowing that I can go out there knowing I don’t have any restraints this year,” Harvey said. “Last year was tough. I didn’t have my stuff. It was just a tough year, and I had the innings’ limit.
“To finally feel normal again and be able to go out there like any other starter, it’s a good feeling.”
In 2018, the Orioles recalled Harvey for three days early in the season. He stayed in the bullpen for each of those games, and that’s the closest he’s gotten to the major leagues.
Harvey has had a list of injuries, topped by Tommy John surgery in 2016. After a brief time in major league spring training, he is confident about this season.
“It’s awesome. I’m trying to hold it as much as I can and keep going the way we’re going and hopefully get the full season under my belt and not get hurt and stay out of Florida,” Harvey said.
In 2018, Harvey stayed with the Orioles until late March when Alex Cobb was signed, but this year he was sent to minor league camp after throwing just two innings.
“I wouldn’t say I was surprised. I hadn’t really played much,” Harvey said. “I went down to minor league camp and got in a little more controlled area. They could control my innings a little better. We just started building up as a starter. It stunk to get cut that early, but I could see where they were coming from.”
Bowie pitching coach Kennie Steenstra, who coached Harvey last year, says he likes what he’s seen from him in 2019.
“Every year he gets a little more mature, and I think he understands his body a little bit better this year,” Steenstra said. “He understands what he’s trying to get better at. He’s got some well-defined roles in front of him, and what he’s trying to accomplish.
“The issue, as everybody knows, is staying healthy. He’s had a great spring. He’s throwing the ball, probably as well right now, as I’ve seen. He’s throwing the ball better than what I saw last year. I think he’s got a lot of confidence right now, and the ball’s coming out of his hand really well.”
Steenstra thinks Harvey can pitch that full season this year.
“He’s a full-go until somebody tells me otherwise,” Steenstra said. “He’s got the same limitations or restrictions as anybody else has as far as pitch counts. He’s a full-go right from the beginning.”
Steenstra and Britton spent the early weeks of spring training in big league camp, and went to Twin Lakes Park for minor league camp shortly after Harvey did.
“I think that was the goal all along, to get him acclimated to the big leagues a little bit,” Steenstra said. “Then when you get a guy down to minor league camp and start building up his pitches and his innings a little easier under a less stressful situation, it always helps out a younger kid like him.”
Harvey didn’t start in his outings in spring training, and it could be that he’ll join the Orioles as a reliever.
“I don’t mind the bullpen,” Harvey said. “It’s just a little bit different. I like my routine. Changing that routine makes it tough.”
The routine changed this spring when manager Brandon Hyde took over the Orioles, and it was noted by Harvey.
“That environment was just way more relaxed and laid back,” Harvey said. “I wasn’t there long, but it was a fun couple of weeks. I’m looking forward to what the new management is going to do.”
Harvey was introduced to Orioles analytics and isn’t afraid to acknowledge he’s a beginner.
“I’m still trying to figure the analytics stuff out,” Harvey said. “It’s new to me, too That’s a work in progress. With the laid-back environment, everybody’s just relaxed . They’re going to play a little bit better and a little more loose, and I think it’s going to end up being really good.”