This is Hunter Harvey’s third year pitching in big league camp, and he has been in six Grapefruit League games previously, but Harvey will be making his first major league exhibition game start Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte.
“I’m excited about it,” Harvey said. “I’m ready to get going, ready to get back on the mound.”
Harvey, 23, is still seeking to get through an entire season healthy. His first full pro season, 2014, was cut short because of elbow discomfort, and he missed the entire 2015 season after he was hit in the leg by a comebacker during a minor league camp game and later had recurring elbow problems.
His 2016 season was sidetracked first by sports hernia surgery and then by elbow problems that led to Tommy John reconstruction of the joint that also cost him most of last season.
As he began his way back from surgery in 2017, Harvey pitched in just eight minor league games and no outing was more than three innings. He allowed just two earned runs in 18 2/3 innings at three low levels of the minor league system, but most importantly, he had his control back, walking just six batters while striking out 30.
“It’s nice not having that hanging over you anymore,” Harvey said of his injury history. “I don’t have to worry about it anymore.”
And now, Harvey will look to build on last year’s success starting Tuesday with his first Grapefruit League start.
“It seems like he has,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said, when asked whether it seems as though Harvey has made a spring start before given how many times he has been in big league camp. “He’s been around big league locker rooms a lot in his life with his dad (former major league closer Bryan Harvey).
“When you draft a major leaguer’s son, some of that stuff isn’t as much of an adjustment, but I don’t think he’s a guy who’s going to get too amped up about things. He knows we have his best interests at heart, and he’s right where he needs to be.”
Whether Harvey opens this season at High-A Frederick or Double-A Bowie remains to be seen, but provided he remains healthy, many people in the organization believe he could become an option for the major league club sometime after the All-Star break.
Even though he didn’t pitch for most of last season — his first start was July 19 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League — Harvey said his time off the mound allowed him to learn as an observer.
“Yeah, I didn’t play, so that kind of made everybody think that there would be a setback for the development,” Harvey said.” But even though I was sitting down here, I was learning about my body and what I needed to do to take care of it. I still watched almost every game we played and I watched all the other games, watching [Clayton] Kershaw and [Corey] Kluber, just trying to learn anything I could. So I felt like it helped a little bit.”
Both the Orioles and Harvey just want to see him come out of Tuesday’s start healthy.
“Just [want to show] that I’m healthy, back to what I was before and just feeling good,” Harvey said.
Said Showalter: “You can tell just by his body and everything. Just the body language is very confident. I think I’ll know more about it after his outing and see if he carries it over there, but I know he’s really excited about getting some of these physical challenges behind him and knowing that he’s dealt with it and he can go forward now. I think there’s a real calm about him now because he knows he’s capable of going out and showing what he can do.”