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Orioles notebook: Top pitching prospect Hunter Harvey shut down again

Orioles pitcher Hunter Harvey participates during spring training at the Orioles' training facility Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015.
Orioles pitcher Hunter Harvey participates during spring training at the Orioles' training facility Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015. (Karl Merton Ferron / Baltimore Sun)

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — Orioles right-handed pitching prospect Hunter Harvey, who has been dealing with arm injuries for more than a year, has been shut down with a reoccurrence of discomfort in his right elbow and forearm area while pitching on the first day of instructional league in Sarasota, Fla., according to manager Buck Showalter.

Harvey will not pitch again until he sees renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews, who is currently out of the country. So the timetable for that visit has not been set, Showalter said.

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The fear is that Harvey, the organization's top pick (22nd overall) in 2013 will ultimately have to have elbow reconstruction (Tommy John) surgery and miss at least another year of his development. But Showalter said that's not a certainty yet.

"We'll see. Let it run its course," Showalter said about a potential surgery. "I know more than I'm going to talk about here. We're hoping for a different result than what that type of thing normally makes you wonder about. It's been a long haul for him."

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Harvey, 20, has started 25 games for the organization since being drafted, compiling a 7-6 record and a 2.87 ERA in 113 innings over parts of two minor league seasons. He reached Low-A Delmarva in 2014, but was shut down in July with a flexor mass strain. He returned to pitch in spring training, but fractured his fibula on a comebacker in a minor league exhibition game.

While rehabilitating in Sarasota, he suffered another strain of the forearm in May and had a platelet-rich-plasma injection. This week, he was finally cleared to throw during instructional league, which begins next week in Florida. Now that has obviously been tabled and he won't be pitching in the Arizona Fall League as originally planned. Showalter said the organization has discussed who will fill that spot, but a final determination hasn't been made.

"Anytime a guy's had that much time off and did all the rehab and did everything and then has some discomfort, that's an issue," Showalter said.

Harvey is one of several Orioles top pitching prospects that have been shelved with arm injuries recently. The list includes No. 1 prospect Dylan Bundy, as well as Branden Kline and Parker Bridwell.

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Bundy, the Orioles' top pick in 2011, had Tommy John surgery in June 2013 and has been dealing with a shoulder issue this year. He has been working out as part of instructional league, and Showalter said Saturday, "Bundy's throwing the ball good."

Showalter said arm injuries are part of the risk of selecting and developing young pitching -- and the Orioles aren't the only organization that has dealt with the problem.

"A lot of those things guys come with," Showalter said. "It's got nothing to do with the draft or scouting or whatever. You hear me talk all the time about travel ball and how much these guys pitch in high school and whatever. Tampa has it. You try as much as you can when you get them to keep that from happening. [Pitching] is not a normal thing to do to your arm. I think everybody tries to or professes to know the magic formula to keep them all healthy. The way to keep them all healthy is not to have them pitch."

When the Orioles drafted Harvey out of high school, they believed that he might have been ahead of other pitchers in terms of health because his father, former major league closer Bryan Harvey, closely monitored his son's pitching usage.

But now surgery remains a looming possibility.

"We'll see. We'll see," Showalter said. "He's a good one. And if something happens, he will be again."

Gausman might face another ex-teammate

Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman has already faced a former high school teammate this month and could get the chance to go against an ex-college buddy Sunday.

On Sept. 8, Gausman pitched against New York Yankees rookie first baseman Greg Bird, a teammate at Grandview High School in Aurora, Colo. It was their first meeting as major leaguers and Gausman won the battle, striking out Bird twice.

Gausman is scheduled to start Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays, and it's possible he'll be facing hot-hitting Rays rookie Mikie Mahtook, who played with Gausman at Louisiana State University.

"That's pretty weird, and pretty cool," Gausman said of facing two ex-teammates for the first time in the majors in a span of three starts. "I've been lucky to play some pretty good baseball with some pretty talented guys. I guess that's kind of the point you get to, or you hope to get to. A lot of these guys, I got here before them, so it's cool that they are now getting here."

When Gausman was a freshman, Mahtook, a Rays first-round draft pick in 2011, was a junior. On Friday, Mahtook set a Tampa Bay rookie record with five hits.

"He was the man at LSU. Won a national championship his freshman year," Gausman said of Mahtook. "He was our No. 3 hole hitter, our center fielder. He was good. I thought he should have been drafted higher than what he was."

Gausman believes they've faced each other twice in the minors, and that Mahtook didn't get a hit either time.

"I know I broke one of his bats, because he was kind of [ticked]," Gausman laughed. "It'll be cool, but my thought has always been once you take the mound, all friendships go out the window. I'm not gonna serve up pitches because I know him. I always pitch better against people I do know."

Hardy on homer: 'Been a while'

Shortstop J.J. Hardy's three-run homer Friday night was his first since July 29 and just his eighth this season.

"It's been a while that I've actually squared up a ball," Hardy said Saturday. "So anytime you hit a ball good, it feels good."

Hardy, 33, has been dealing with the injuries since the spring, including his left, non-throwing shoulder. But he said he didn't want to offer that as an excuse for his offensive troubles in 2015 —he was hitting .212 heading into Saturday night.

Hardy said he hopes to be fully healthy in 2016 after resting this offseason; he doesn't plan on having surgery on the aching shoulder.

"No, I'm not going to. I had surgery on this shoulder, and that was the worst six, seven months of my life," he said. "[Doctors] are basically saying that's not an option, so try and get it as good as possible. I think it should be good. I'm optimistic there'll be no problem."

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