Hunter Harvey health updates have been a spring training staple. Harvey, who was the Orioles’ No. 1 draft pick in 2013, is still looking to pitch a full season in the major leagues. At 26, Harvey has pitched only 15 major league innings as a reliever.
Because of service time, Harvey has lost his rookie status for 2021, a year that will be critical to his development as a major leaguer.
“I think every season is important, but once again going into it, my main goal is the health thing, trying to stay healthy,” Harvey said in a video conference call. “That’s been by far, the biggest thing for me. I’ve been battling injuries, I feel like, eight years, ever since I got drafted by the Orioles. It’s a huge season. I’d like to stay healthy, and that’s what I’m shooting for.”
Harvey pitched 6 1/3 innings and looked dominant in 2019 after he was recalled on August 17th. The Orioles shut him down early as a precaution. Last year, he had a strained right forearm and pitched only 8 2/3 innings, none before August 30th.
In the offseason, which featured twice as much throwing as usual, and lots of hunting, Harvey worked with Darren Holmes, the bullpen coach who is also the assistant pitching coach. After consulting with pitching coach Chris Holt, they had Harvey work extensively on his split-finger fastball.
“He came down a couple of times this offseason and worked with me,” Harvey said of Holmes. “We worked on some stuff, trying to get my arm on time more and being able to be more consistent with my offspeed. We kind of cleaned up my arm path a little bit, and my splitter has been, for me … the best it’s every felt since I started throwing it. I’m looking forward to see how it’s going to play in games.”
Manager Brandon Hyde saw the impact Harvey can make in 2019.
“We all know how great of an arm he has and how important he is to us,” Hyde said. “Like I’ve been saying for a couple of years now, it’s about him establishing health and being able to pitch for a full season. It’s something he’s had a tough time with for a lot of reasons over the course of his career.
“I know he’s ready. It’s the best he’s ever felt, and he’s come to camp looking great. He’s a big piece for us, and we really believe in him, in his arm and in his makeup, so bottom line is to try to keep him healthy.”
Harvey was determined to make the offseason count after a disappointing 2020 campaign.
“As soon as we got to the offseason, I treated it just like if we had played a normal season, and I threw a lot of innings,” Harvey said. “I took the same amount of time off and got right back into it, and got my body ready and my arm ready to come into spring and try to pitch a full season healthy.
“I would say we doubled the amount that I normally throw. Build the arm up and got the body used to possibly taking the ball [on] back-to-back days, two on and off one, and come back for another — really just trying to prepare for that and be ready for any role they throw at me.”
In his time with the Orioles, Harvey has had to adjust to many coaches, and now he’s working with Holt.
“He’s been really good with teaching guys how to spin the ball,” Harvey said. “He’s got a good idea of how to do that. He’s helped me out a lot with trying to get my offspeed more consistent. He’s real easy to talk to when it comes to stuff like that, tunneling pitches. He’s really good with any of that stuff. It helps out a lot having him.”
Harvey wants to pitch a lot this season and in front of fans.
“It was much different, but once you get up there and a big league hitter gets in there, it turns right back on,” Harvey said. “You get the adrenaline, you get everything going. I am looking forward to having people in the stands. Something about it, it gets you going, it fires you up, it gets your adrenaline going even more. Whatever we can get this year, we’ll take it. I’m looking forward to people being back in the stands.”
Harvey’s biggest moment came in 2019 when he debuted with a scoreless inning at Fenway Park. The following weeks were fun, too, as he gave up just one run on three hits in 6 1/3 innings, striking out 11 with a fastball that hit 100 miles per hour.
“It’s always going to be meaningful, the first month in the big leagues,” Harvey said. “I think I’ll always be able to go back on that moment, that month of first being in the big leagues after the five or six years that I had with all the injuries and not pitching. That will always be there. It will probably be one of my greatest moments in my career, just knowing that we battled through all the injuries and we had reached the big leagues.”
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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