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‘I’m healthy and I’m ready to compete’: Orioles promote former first-round pick Hunter Harvey to majors

Orioles pitcher Hunter Harvey.
Orioles pitcher Hunter Harvey. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

Promoted to the Orioles on Saturday, Hunter Harvey wants to show them what he’s proven all season.

“I’m healthy,” he said, “and I’m ready to compete.”

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The Orioles announced Saturday morning they promoted Harvey, their 2013 first-round draft pick, to the majors from Triple-A Norfolk. Although he was called up briefly in 2018, he did not pitch until making his major league debut Saturday night.

He pitched a scoreless eighth inning in a 4-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox, striking out two and walking one while repeatedly hitting 99 mph on the Fenway Park radar gun.

"It’s obviously electric stuff and to make his debut at Fenway Park and throw 100 mph and throwing strikes and just really attacking their hitters with obviously an electric fastball and good off-speed stuff, yeah, that was really fun to watch,” manager Brandon Hyde said.

Harvey, 24, is a right-handed pitcher who was viewed as the Orioles’ top prospect early in his career after the organization took him 22nd overall in 2013. But he battled arm injuries often, with an elbow injury that eventually prompted Tommy John surgery and cost him all of 2015 and most of 2016 and 2017.

Harvey’s 75 2/3 innings across two levels this season are more than double the number he threw for Double-A Bowie in 2018 while dealing with elbow and shoulder injuries, the latter caused when he avoided a line drive into the dugout. Before this year, he hadn’t pitched more than 32 1/3 innings in a season since 2014, so declaring clean health is a joy.

“I’ve been trying to say that for the last couple of years, and I thought I had it last year, and then something crazy happened,” Harvey said. "Just to be in August already, it’s been crazy to even think about that.”

Harvey started the year pitching in Bowie’s rotation, but he posted a 6.12 ERA in 11 starts, allowing a .304 average and 14 home runs in 50 innings. In an effort to both manage his workload and maximize his high-velocity repertoire, Harvey was moved to the bullpen, where he took off. In three relief appearances with Bowie, he limited opposing batters to one hit in nine scoreless innings, striking out 11.

Orioles pitcher Hunter Harvey at spring training.
Orioles pitcher Hunter Harvey at spring training. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

That earned him the promotion to Norfolk, where he continued to pitch as a reliever. Although the numbers weren’t as strong, with Harvey having a 4.32 ERA across 12 appearances, he struck out 22 in 16 2/3 innings and held opponents to a .206 average. With the exception of one outing with the Tides in which he allowed five runs in 1 1/3 innings, Harvey had a 1.76 ERA at Triple-A and a 1.11 ERA overall as a reliever.

“For me, you’re not rolling a lineup, so it’s a little bit different," Harvey said. "You don’t have to set guys up one at-bat and then worry about them later on in the game. You might see everybody once, so you throw everything you’ve got and just try to beat them.”

Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said the team hasn’t decided whether Harvey will start or relieve in the long run, but has been impressed with his smooth transition to the bullpen.

“It’s been a positive development that he’s come this far and had success and sustained his stuff through the season,” Elias said. “He’s going to be relieving for us through the year, and I think he has enough innings left in his budget to possibly get through September, depending on how much usage he sees.”

Hyde managed Harvey’s brother, Kris, in the then-Florida Marlins’ minor league system and also knows Harvey’s father, Bryan, a former major league reliever. Given what Harvey endured to reach the majors, Hyde said he wanted to do what he could to protect him. Hyde also was unsure whether a return to starting was a possibility in Harvey’s future.

“He’s been healthy all year long, and that’s what we were hoping to see, him establishing some health and throw the ball well, and he’s done that,” Hyde said. "Now, he’s up here.”

Hyde might prove to be as impressed with Harvey’s hair as his arm, with the North Carolinian sporting a flowing mullet.

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“He’s got an absolutely outstanding hairdo going right now,” Hyde joked. "It’s a show hairdo. We’re welcoming him with open arms.”

The Orioles will want to manage Harvey’s innings, but given his background as a starter, he could be deployed as a multi-inning reliever. Nine of his 15 relief appearances this year exceeded one inning. His most recent two appearances came Tuesday and Wednesday, the first time he’s worked back-to-back days. Hyde said Harvey was throwing 99 mph in the second outing, adding that Harvey pitching consecutive days was the last item on the Orioles’ checklist before a promotion.

“When I saw him, he was just kind of checking out Fenway, which is always a cool feeling,” Hyde said before the game. "You pull for a guy like that, that’s been through so much. He’s had to deal with a lot of adversity, and to go through all the stuff that he’s gone through and to make it and hopefully make his pitching debut in Fenway Park, that’ll be special.”

More than anything, Hyde and Harvey are just happy that he’s back in the big leagues. Harvey’s three-day taste of the majors in 2018 “helped burn that fire” to get back, he said.

Still, the call he got from Norfolk manager Gary Kendall at about 10:30 p.m. Friday night surprised him, given he figured any call-up would’ve come as part of expanded rosters in September. With the Tides playing in Syracuse, Harvey was at the airport by 3:30 a.m. for a 5 a.m. flight to Boston to meet the Orioles.

Meanwhile, his father drove through the night from North Carolina for the chance to see his son’s debut, picking up Harvey’s girlfriend, Summer, along the way during the 12-hour drive.

“When I got that phone call last night, I was kind of blown away,” Harvey said. “I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet that you’re in the big leagues. It’s just been a long path, just trying to beat all these injuries and get ahead of them. It’s just been an awesome feeling to know that I’m back in the big leagues.”

Baltimore Sun reporter Jon Meoli contributed to this article.

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