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Baltimore Orioles

Starting pitcher Matt Harvey returns to Orioles on minor league deal despite ‘very unique’ off-field situation

The Orioles have signed right-hander Matt Harvey to a minor league deal, the team announced Friday, reuniting with the former All-Star who started 28 games for Baltimore last season.

On Thursday, executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias acknowledged the “very unique situation” surrounding Harvey, who testified at the trial of former Los Angeles Angels communications director Eric Kay in February. Kay was found guilty of two felony counts and faces a minimum of 20 years in prison for distributing drugs to Tyler Skaggs, which led to the Angels pitcher’s overdose death in 2019.

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In Harvey’s testimony, the 33-year-old detailed his own experience using drugs. Cocaine was his drug of choice, Harvey said, and he continued to use the drug after he signed with the Angels in 2019. He also shared Percocet pills with Skaggs when Skaggs asked if Harvey had either Percocet or oxycodone.

Skaggs, 27, was found dead July 1, 2019, the day after the team had traveled from Los Angeles and before the start of a series against the Texas Rangers. A coroner’s report said Skaggs had choked to death on his vomit, and a toxic mix of alcohol, fentanyl and oxycodone were in his system.

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Harvey could be facing a suspension of at least 60 days due to a violation of MLB’s drug policy for drug distribution, according to ESPN. MLB said in February that they would conduct a review of the matter after the trial was completed, and that process is ongoing.

At the trial, Harvey said he believed his testimony would threaten his career.

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“Obviously, he’s in the situation he’s in right now because of off-the-field things,” Elias said. “But getting to know him last year, understanding his approach to what’s gone on, our point of view is that this was something that shouldn’t prevent him from having another chance with this organization, especially with the way he conducted himself last year.”

Harvey had a 3.60 ERA in his first seven starts, setting up a tantalizing return to Citi Field to face the New York Mets on May 12, but he allowed seven runs that day against his former team to kick off a stretch of 11 starts in which he had an 11.20 ERA. He pitched better after the All-Star break but finished the season with a 6.27 ERA across 127 2/3 innings, second most behind left-hander John Means, in 28 starts.

Elias acknowledged the stat line “wasn’t the prettiest,” but there are other factors he considers when approaching a deal for Harvey.

“He did a lot to help us last year,” Elias said. “The innings that he threw, the luck that he had, and I think most importantly for us, the pro and the teammate that he was in helping us get through a very difficult season was something that we wanted back. We feel he might provide us depth and he might be able to help us and he was in the process of kind of unlocking some things, coming off an injury.”

Having Harvey in the system might be a security blanket of sorts. Baltimore has seen breakthroughs from Means and right-hander Tyler Wells, but Elias is waiting to see consistency from his other young arms. The fifth starter role isn’t set in stone.

That could open room for a pitcher with Harvey’s experience — and his ability to chew innings. There remains the uncertainty of a looming suspension for Harvey, but his presence in the organization supplies another long option.

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