After signing a minor league contract with the Orioles as spring training began, veteran right-hander Matt Harvey was added to the team’s 40-man roster on Thursday.
Harvey, who will turn 32 on Saturday, will be one of the Orioles’ starting pitchers after posting a 5.40 ERA in three starts during the Grapefruit League season. He’ll be paid a reported $1 million with performance bonuses.
On Saturday night, Harvey allowed one run, on a home run, and no additional hits against the New York Yankees in four innings, solidifying his place on the roster.
“I gave it everything I had,” Harvey said. “From Day 1, I felt like things improved every single time out and whether it was bullpens or out in the games, things just got better and better. I definitely worked as hard as I could, and that obviously paid off.”
Harvey was one of three starting pitching candidates to sign minor league contracts with the Orioles last month. Félix Hernández probably won’t begin the season with the team after pitching just one inning because of discomfort in his right elbow on March 16th. Left-hander Wade LeBlanc, who has a 2.25 ERA in three games, remains in contention for a starting or long relief role.
On Wednesday, manager Brandon Hyde said that the Orioles hadn’t decided if they would carry 13 or 14 pitchers or use a five- or six-man rotation when the season starts on April 1st.
John Means will be the team’s Opening Day starter in Boston a week from now. He could be followed by Dean Kremer, who allowed two runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Red Sox on Wednesday night while striking out five. Keegan Akin, who is scheduled to start Thursday night against Pittsburgh, is likely to be in rotation with Harvey, who’s scheduled to pitch on Sunday.
Harvey cited spending time at a pitching facility in New Jersey just before spring training as a key in his development. He continued working with Orioles pitching coach Chris Holt on what he’d learned there.
“Big thing that Chris Holt likes to say is that ‘you should never look back and try and be just as good as you were before,'” Harvey said. “He’s tried to emphasize that with some new weapons, with smarter pitching, maybe I could be even better — at least strive to be better.”
Akin, LeBlanc and Bruce Zimmermann, are left-handed. LeBlanc, Zimmermann and Jorge López, who is scheduled to start Friday night in Tampa against the New York Yankees, are being considered for the rotation and/or long relief.
Harvey was given the news he’d made the club by Executive Vice President/General Manager Mike Elias and Hyde. They began by implying they had bad news for him.
“Then they switched their faces around and told me the good news,” Harvey said. “It was pretty cool. It was definitely unexpected, but it was a special day, for sure.”
Last week, the Orioles opened a spot on the 40-man roster for Harvey by waiving right-hander Ashton Goudeau. In order to add LeBlanc, they would have to drop a player from the 40-man roster.
Mac Sceroler and Tyler Wells, two Rule 5 picks, remain in camp and, according to Hyde, will continue to audition through the remaining exhibition games. The Grapefruit League season concludes on Monday.
To retain one or both Rule 5 picks, the Orioles would likely have to option a reliever or two with major league experience to Triple-A Norfolk.
Harvey has a 44-52 record with a 4.14 ERA in eight major league seasons with the New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Angels and Kansas City Royals.
“When you start an All-Star Game and you pitch in a World Series, I think the last thing you think about is how excited you’d be to make a team again,” Harvey said. “I’d like to say it was a good early birthday present, and it was probably one of the best I’ve had. I’m super excited. I’m very thankful they saw the work I put in and thought it was good enough to continue to get better and help the team out any way I can.”
Harvey’s best year came with the Mets in 2015 when they played the Royals in the World Series. He went 13-8 with a 2.71 ERA.
“I’m not going to try and be as good as I was,” Harvey said. “I’ll try and be better.”