Long-awaited pitching prospect Hunter Harvey would love to start this season in the major leagues — and he might already be a member of the Orioles starting rotation in a perfect world — but he knows success in 2019 will not be a matter of geography.
“That’s the goal,” said Harvey, who’s still just 24. “That’s what we work for. I think if you don’t have that mindset, you probably shouldn’t be here.”
It just doesn’t matter as much as one of the Orioles’ most valued right arms pitching an entire season without feeling a twinge or an ache. He might start the season at Double-A Bowie, and that would be OK, too, if he finishes it without another health-related interruption.
“Yeah, after everything I’ve been through I would be happy,’’ he said.
Obviously, there is no reason to rush him. The Orioles are going to spend this spring evaluating a spring roster packed with young players trying to take advantage of an unprecedented amount of opportunity. Harvey, who was the Orioles’ first-round draft pick in 2013, has never pitched a full season in professional baseball.
The closest he came was in 2014, when he made 17 starts and pitched 87 2/3 innings for Low-A Delmarva, Since then, he has undergone Tommy John elbow reconstruction and coped with several other significant injuries, including the elbow tendinitis that limited him to just nine starts at Bowie last year.
New manager Brandon Hyde is just getting to know Harvey, but he’s well aware of the obstacles that have been thrown in front of him.
“Obviously, we know what he’s dealt with the last handful of years and we’re going to be careful with him,’’ Hyde said. “Our goal is for him to break camp healthy and we’re going to work together on that, devising the right plan and helping him out as much as possible. It was great to see him out there throwing the ball today. He looks great. Looks great physically. The ball’s coming out. So I think we’re on the right track with that.”
So, the organization will play it cool with his mound time this spring and for the foreseeable future. But he’s itching to go after resuming his throwing program in December and progressing to normal bullpen sessions without discomfort.
“Really good,’’ Harvey said. “We started throwing the beginning of December. I had a little bit in my head. I was a little worried. I hadn’t thrown in a while without some pain. Come December, we started throwing and everything felt good … felt normal again … and we just carried on.
“I think I’ve thrown four bullpens. I’ve thrown all my pitches and everything has been good.”
Though a steady rain early Wednesday limited the Orioles’ first official pitcher-catcher workout at the Ed Smith Stadium complex, Harvey was in the first group to throw from the bullpen mounds.
Harvey doesn’t know what the club has planned for him, but — at this point — he’s open to anything.
“Hopefully, I’ll find out soon and we’ll get a plan,” Harvey said. “As of right now, we’re cleared and we’re a full-go.”
So, he can dream of a healthy year, a chance to show off the talent that has never been fully realized and a shot at the big leagues.
“I’m ready if they give me the chance,’’ he said. “Hopefully, this year’s the year.”
Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.
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