Hunter Harvey expected to open his season Monday starting for Double-A Bowie, but a sudden detour took him to the big leagues instead. After a long journey that has included its share of injuries, including Tommy John surgery two seasons ago, the Orioles’ top pitching prospect arrived in Baltimore to help replenish a bullpen that had accounted for 11 2/3 innings Sunday.
His father, former major league pitcher Bryan Harvey, was prepared before Monday’s series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays for a night full of nervous pacing through the club-level suite at Camden Yards in anticipation of his son’s major league debut. Hours earlier, he had shared a your-time-has-come moment on the drive to the ballpark.
“We talked all the way up here,” said Harvey, who pitched in the 1993 All-Star Game at Camden Yards and saved 177 games in a nine-year major league career with the California Angels and Florida Marlins. “I was in Bowie with him, so I drove him up to here. We had some conversation. I told him, ‘Everything we’ve done for the past 10 years, this is what it’s for. You’re here. Now do what you’re supposed to do.’ It’s all on him now. … [I’m] really surprised. I’m happy for him with everything he’s been through. I thought he had a good spring training. I think he’s ready. We’ll see what happens.”
The Orioles didn’t use Harvey in Monday’s 7-1 loss to the Blue Jays — manager Buck Showalter said he planned to bring him into the game only if extra innings were required — but Harvey was prepared to make his debut
“We’re trying to protect the health of all our people, including Hunter,” Showalter said. “We’re trying to protect [Monday’s starter] Dylan Bundy tonight. We’re trying to protect five guys that can’t pitch in the bullpen. We’re trying to protect them. It’s about a lot of variables. Talking like we do before every game, we pushed the limits as far as we could go with every guy yesterday. I’m not going to do that tonight. I’m not going to do it again.”
Harvey, a first-round draft pick in 2013, has missed most of the past three years with a litany of injuries. He is finally healthy, but the Orioles still planned to handle him with care going into this season, initially slotting him for three-inning outings at Bowie. Harvey also hadn’t pitched in 11 days, since his final start in minor league camp back in Sarasota, Fla.
In an indication that Harvey’s arrival could be short-lived, Showalter said before Monday’s game that ideally, he wouldn’t have to call on the 23-year-old, whose first big league call-up comes before his first inning pitching above High-A ball. But the team needed a bullpen arm in case of a short start from Bundy.
“You understand why he’s here,” Showalter said. “He’s the one guy who can provide length for us tonight. You can’t assume anything. … It’s just wrong for any of us to assume that someone is not going to get hit with a line drive off the kneecap or cut a nail and can’t hold the ball.”
With so many relievers unavailable after Sunday’s game, calling up Harvey was the best of the few options available to replenish the bullpen for Monday’s game, especially considering Toronto’s right-handed-heavy batting order.
Upon word of Hunter’s call-up, the Harveys worked to get to Baltimore in case Hunter got into Monday’s game. Hunter’s mother, Lisa, had spent the weekend in Bowie with Hunter, but had left Maryland to return to the family home in North Carolina before jumping back on a flight back to Baltimore.
Bryan Harvey made his major league debut against the Orioles on May 16, 1987, pitching for the Angels. The first batters he faced were Cal Ripken Jr., Eddie Murray and Fred Lynn, a moment he still remembers vividly. But on Monday, he wore an Orioles cap and stared out onto the Camden Yards field anticipating his son’s debut.
Asked about how it might feel to make his major league debut, Bryan said: “That’s hard to relay.”
“We’ve talked about that before,” he said. “There really wasn’t that much hype when I played. It was the ‘Game of the Week,’ so there was one game [on national TV] that week, and we were it, but you know, with all the media and everything now, he’s hyped up, and that kind of puts a lot of pressure on you. I think he’s ready to handle it.”
That’s one of the reasons the Orioles tabbed Hunter Harvey. Though he was just a toddler when his father pitched his final major league game, he was always around the game. His older brother, Kris, was a second-round pick of the Marlins and played professionally for eight seasons. His father was a minor league pitching coach for several seasons in the Colorado Rockies organization, so he’s been exposed to the game since an early age.
“I think it will help him,” Bryan said. “I was not playing when he was old enough to go. His older brother was in the minor leagues. He was able to go with him. He spent some time with me when I was coaching in Double-A, so he’s been around this, and for his whole life, we’ve sat and watched the big league guys and talked about it, so mentally, he is prepared well. I think if he were to get in tonight, the excitement might overtake it a bit, but I think he’ll settle down and do what he is supposed to do here.”
Said Showalter: “I do know this: You look at certain guys that teammates are kind of drawn to. He’s very unassuming and respectful. You’re talking about that this is a very good major league pitcher’s son. He’s been around some locker rooms, but he’s got the right amount of nervousness today. … We all kind of play through some of the young guys’ eyes and what they’re thinking, and I love watching him move around today and seeing what’s going on today, knowing full well he might not get into the game today. I hope he doesn’t. I hope we don’t have that need, but you can’t go into today’s game without solving that.”
Harvey entered Monday with just 18 2/3 innings under his belt since Tommy John surgery in May 2016. Anticipating his first full healthy season as a pro — Harvey’s season high in innings was 87 2/3 in 2014 for Low-A Delmarva, a season that ended a month early with arm soreness — Harvey had a strong spring training that put him near the cusp of making the major league roster. He had a 3.86 ERA over seven Grapefruit League innings.
“I don’t know if you can say for sure that this is what he’s going to do well here,” Showalter said. “I know what he’s done well in the past. He’s got a late-life fastball, a curveball that’s the old-fashioned [12-6] — a power curveball —and a changeup he’s got a feel for. He holds runners, and he ain’t scared. We’ll see if that plays up here. It did in other places. Do I wish he had more experience in Triple-A, Double-A and whatever? He had some outings in Twin Lakes [during spring training]. He’s physically ready. He’s ready to go.”
Note: In a corresponding move, the Orioles optioned left-hander Tanner Scott to Triple-A Norfolk. Scott was recalled before Sunday’s game and pitched 1 2/3 relief innings against the New York Yankees, after going two innings at Norfolk on Friday. And because Scott, who has been used as a starter in the minors, had never pitched on back-to-back days, he wouldn’t have been available to pitch until Tuesday, at the earliest. Scott was recalled to replace right-hander Jimmy Yacabonis, who was called up before Saturday’s game, pitching an inning in the 8-3 loss to New York before being optioned back to Norfolk on Sunday.