NEW YORK—In his second start with the Orioles, Matt Harvey gets to pitch in the team’s home opener against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday at 3:05 p.m. Eduardo Rodriguez will start for Boston.
Harvey, whose first start with the Orioles came on April 3, threw 4 2/3 innings and allowed two runs in a game the Orioles won, 4-2.
It will be the first game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards with fans in attendance since September 2019. Harvey says there will be some jitters.
“In every game, you have butterflies to some degree,” Harvey said in a video conference call Wednesday. “It’s exciting. It’s a big league game. It’s a big league ballpark. That never gets old.
“It only intensifies when it’s the home opener. It’s exciting, and I’m honored to get the ball tomorrow.”
Oriole Park will be at 25 percent capacity, about 11,000 fans, on Thursday.
“Obviously, it’s our home park but, in general, being back in a major league ballpark with fans, it’s extremely exciting. I got to really get a good feel of it with about 16 of my family members at the game I pitched in Boston. I have some friends coming in tomorrow, and I have some former teammates coming in for my next start, so it’s exciting.
“It’s what major league baseball is all about, playing for the fans, playing at home, playing in your own city. We’re obviously extremely excited for the support and, hopefully, sooner than later, we can have a full crowd.”
Since Harvey left the New York Mets in 2018, he’s with his fifth organization — Cincinnati, the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland, Kansas City and the Orioles. He’s trying to feel at home in a new clubhouse in the age of Covid-19.
“Being around the guys, being in the clubhouse, obviously this year is different, and last year was different,” Harvey said. “Being able to experience each city with guys who’ve played there for a couple of years. Hopefully, soon, pretty much all of us are going to get vaccinated and, hopefully, we’ll be able to do some normal hanging out with teammates — dinners and stuff like that, really get to experience the behind-the-scenes fun of major league baseball and being part of a team. It’s been missed.”
Harvey knows what’s expected of him as a starter.
“As a starting pitcher, you know what your job is,” Harvey said. “Whether you’re older, whether you’re young, whether you’re experienced or not, the goal of a starting pitcher is to get six, seven innings and not tax the bullpen. I think you learn that as a young age. You definitely learn that as more [of a] veteran.
“Those days where you can save the bullpen … it really helps everybody. It helps the whole team. … I haven’t in a while been a huge strikeout guy. I hope to get back to that at some point, whether it’s tomorrow or the near future. What we’ve been working on since spring training is pounding the zone, throwing strikes, trying to get early outs.
“I didn’t do a very good job of that in my last start. You’re going to have some of those games. The biggest thing is weak contact, early outs and being in the game as long as you can. That really saves the bullpen now, and it really saves them later in the season.”
The Red Sox get a second look at the 32-year-old right-hander.
“Doing your homework and going over the scouting report once, going back over what you previously did,” he said. “That way, you’re not running into throwing the same pitches to the same guys.
“You get to fix what you did wrong to certain hitters. You get to be continuously educated on what you’re trying to accomplish and learn from your mistakes and learn what the tendencies are from guys in the last week and what you can do to get them out.”
During spring training, pitchers weren’t permitted at games in which they weren’t scheduled to pitch. Now, Harvey has gotten a first-hand look at each of his fellow starters.
“I’ve been around them enough between starts to realize how much work they put in at such a young age,” Harvey said. “I definitely wish I had done that more when I was 23, 24, 25 years old.
“It might have been a different time, eight, nine years ago when guys didn’t prep as much as they do now, and there [wasn’t] as much science involved in baseball. Just watching what they do on a day-to-day basis is pretty incredible.
“The work they’re putting in in the weight room, the work they’re putting in in their bullpens is pretty incredible. It’s fun to watch. It’s fun to see them get better and better. I’m trying to keep up with them.”