SARASOTA, FLA. — This is supposed to be the spring when Orioles reliever Hunter Harvey gets to forget about all those years fighting through injuries and just pitch his way into the major league bullpen.
So, imagine how he felt the past week while a couple dozen other guys were in camp doing just that and he was trapped in his rental house battling the flu.
Life just isn’t fair sometimes.
“It was terrible,” Harvey said Wednesday as he prepared to take the field for his first normal workout. “I couldn’t leave the house. I just laid around every day and I was about to go crazy laying there. So, to be back is awesome.”
And yet, he still had something to be thankful for.
Harvey said he pretty much checked every box on his watch list, though some of the shows probably aren’t for everyone.
“I did watch a bull-riding documentary that was pretty good,” he said in that southern drawl that let’s you know he probably found it while looking for a miniseries on bow-hunting.
Now, it’s back to business for a 25-year-old right-hander who figured to be an established major leaguer by now if not for a star-crossed minor league career during which he pitched more than 32⅓ innings just twice in seven seasons.
He finally reached the majors last season and made quite a first impression, dazzling big league hitters with a fastball that topped out at 99 mph and striking out 11 batters in just 6⅓ innings.
That small body of bullpen work completed an unusual career arc, since Harvey is now viewed by the organization exclusively as a reliever, though he did not make a professional appearance out of the bullpen until last season.
He started the year at Double-A Bowie and made 11 starts — and his performances were all over the place. He moved to the bullpen in mid-June and made three dominating relief appearances for the Baysox, pitching nine innings, striking out 11 and giving up just one hit.
By the end of the month, he was at Triple-A Norfolk, pitching exclusively in relief and, apparently, loving every inning of it.
“I never thought I’d be in the bullpen,” Harvey said, “but once I kind of got the taste of it, it’s tough to leave. It’s been awesome. I love pitching out of the bullpen.”
So, how would he feel if he pitched out of the pen for the rest of his career?
“I’d be perfectly happy,” he said.
And if he ended up at some point in the starting rotation?
“I’d still be happy. Either way, as long as I’m playing it doesn’t really matter.”
The ’pen appears to be the plan at the moment and Harvey — despite his scant major league experience — is expected to be on the Opening Day roster if he pitches well and stays healthy this spring.
“Nothing’s really set, for me at least, I don’t think,” Harvey said. “You’ve still got to come in. You’ve got to pitch. You’ve got to perform and try to make the team. That’s kind of my mindset and I’m going to stick with that.”
Pedro Severino and Trey Mancini also have returned to workouts after being kept away from the team for several days because of flu-like symptoms, but first baseman Chris Davis was sent home Wednesday after feeling ill.
Around the horn
The players sat down Wednesday morning for the team’s annual nutrition presentation, which in the past was followed by Adam Jones ordering in Popeye’s chicken for a post-workout team lunch.