SALISBURY -- Hunter Harvey, the Orioles’ 19-year-old pitching prospect, dealt with the pitfalls of being a young strikeout pitcher in Low-A ball Sunday when he was pulled after four innings in Delmarva’s 5-2 win over Kannapolis at Perdue Stadium.
Harvey's high pitch count cut short an outing that saw him mow down the Intimidators early, and cut what had the potential to be special start short for the right-hander.
“When you’re a strikeout pitcher, you’re going to have a high pitch count," Delmarva manager Ryan Minor said. "You’d like to get some early-count outs in between some of your strikeouts, and today, unfortunately, he had some long counts that ran his pitch count up.”
Harvey, the 22nd overall pick in the 2013 MLB draft, allowed a run and three hits in four innings, striking out seven and walking just one. He also hit two batters.
Fifty of Harvey's 85 pitches were strikes, and he earned a no-decision after the Shorebirds erased a 1-0 deficit with five runs. Right-hander Dylan Rheault (6-0) earned the win after giving up only one hit in three scoreless innings, while right-hander Dennis Torres allowed one run and two hits in two innings.
Shortstop Jeff Kemp had four hits and two RBIs, while first baseman Trey Mancini and designated hitter Chance Sisco each drove in a run in the win.
Harvey fanned all three batters he faced in a 16-pitch first inning, working primarily with a fastball that began the inning at 91 mph and ended it at 95 mph.
He got the leadoff man in the second, Danny Hayes, looking on a 77-mph breaking ball for his fourth straight strikeout to open the game before Jeremy Dowdy pulled a curveball down the right-field line that caught the chalk on the foul line for a one-out double.
Harvey rebounded for another strikeout with a 95-mph fastball past Carl Thomore before an inning-ending groundout.
However, he ran into trouble in the third inning after a leadoff strikeout -- to that point, his sixth in eight batters. In the following at-bat, Harvey tried to field a chopper up the middle that was eventually grabbed by Kemp for a stellar putout.
The chopper nicked Harvey’s ring finger, but earlier in the at-bat, he ripped off a developing blister on his middle finger. Harvey hit the next two batters -- his South Atlantic League-leading eighth and ninth of the year -- and Minor joined the trainers for a mound visit.
Harvey and Minor said the blister didn’t impact him, and he got out of the inning with a pop=ip to Kemp, but Harvey had already run his pitch count to 65 pitches.
Harvey picked up his fourth leadoff strikeout in the fourth before the next three batters reached base, scoring the Intimidators’ first run. A pair of groundouts ended the inning and Harvey’s afternoon at 85 pitches.
“We could have sent him out there for the fifth, but we were a little cautious more than anything,” Minor said. “He had a little blister on his finger, and with the high pitch count, we wanted him to be able to finish an inning rather than start an inning and have to come out of the game.”
Harvey said he felt good and was attacking the zone early, especially with knee-high fastballs at the edge of the plate, but he lamented that he had to pass the game off to his bullpen so early in the game.
“I had a lot of strikeouts, but I’d rather have a little bit less strikeouts and extend it, go a little bit longer to help the bullpen,” Harvey said. “I wore them out today. … I could probably work the count a little bit better. I felt like I was being too fine and getting a lot of 2-2, 3-2 counts. Once you do that, it’s going to work the pitch count up really fast.”
Harvey ramped his fastball up to 96 mph in the second inning, but settled around 92-93 mph as the game progressed. He threw his high-70s breaking ball in all counts, showing consistent shape with the pitch even as his ability to command it wavered.
He threw just one first-inning changeup, but Minor said developing his third pitch is one of many goals set for Harvey in Delmarva.
“He’s a young kid, he was pitching in high school last year at this time,” Minor said. “It’s one of those things that’s a learning process for him. He’s not going to be one of those guys who is going to be in Baltimore by the end of the year. Would we like that? Yes.
"But we want him to develop three pitches by the end of the year, and be a better pitcher than when he started the year.”