Orioles pitching prospect Hunter Harvey, whose 2014 season was ended prematurely with elbow tightness, has been cleared by team doctors and is now having a normal offseason.
That's tremendous news for the Orioles, who have high hopes for the right-hander.
Harvey, who was the team's first-round pick (22nd overall) in the 2013 draft, will turn 20 on Dec. 9. He went 7-5 with a 3.18 ERA in 17 starts at Low-A Delmarva, allowing 66 hits and striking out 106 batters in 87 2/3 innings.
Harvey was sidelined after feeling tightness near his elbow following his final start of the season on July 25. He never felt any pain, and there was no structural damage to Harvey's arm. He was diagnosed with a flexor mass strain and was shut down for the remainder of the minor league season.
The Orioles were optimistic then that Harvey would need just rest and not surgery. Still, a flexor mass strain was what top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy was initially diagnosed with early in the 2013 season and that eventually led to Tommy John surgery.
But rest seems to have done the job for Harvey. He didn't participate in instructional league and saw Orioles team doctors in Baltimore in October.
Harvey was completely cleared Oct. 20. He will resume normal offseason conditioning, but won't begin a throwing program until January, which is normal for young pitchers. Harvey also is expected to participate in the Orioles' minicamp in Sarasota, Fla., in mid-January.
In what would have been his first full professional season, Harvey was held to strict pitch, inning and appearance counts before being shut down. And the Orioles have handled Harvey with care as he averaged five innings per start and threw more than 70 pitches just three times.
Harvey, who is the son of former major league reliever Bryan Harvey, showed off his exemplary three-pitch mix, which includes a mid-90s fastball, a changeup and a curveball. He also threw a scoreless inning in this year's Futures Game, holding his own against higher-level competition by striking out two hitters and allowing a double and a walk.
The Orioles kept Harvey -- who was ranked as the club's No. 2 prospect by Baseball America last month -- at the Low-A level all season in 2014. He likely will open the season at High-A Frederick in 2015, but Harvey could make the jump to Double-A Bowie if he pitches well early.
NOTE: Harvey and his father, former All-Star closer Bryan Harvey, are hosting a charity poker tournament near their home in Charlotte, N.C.
The Harvey's Aces Celebrity Poker Tournement will be held on Dec. 5 at the Heist Brewery in Charlotte with the proceeds going to the Angelman Syndrome Foundation and the Harvey Baseball Foundation. For more information, go HERE.