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Baltimore Orioles

Hunter Harvey’s return to the Orioles bullpen is imminent. What can he add to an already-improved group?

When Hunter Harvey traveled with the Orioles to St. Petersburg, Florida, this week to finish off his rehabilitation assignment from another forearm injury, it meant the hard-throwing former top draft pick’s return to the bullpen was nearing.

Harvey said Wednesday that this forearm soreness wasn’t like any of the injuries that hampered him earlier in his career, noting that those “hurt really bad” and this time it was just uncomfortable. Still, the idea of Harvey back at manager Brandon Hyde’s disposal comes at a time when the Orioles bullpen might need him most.

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Harvey wasn’t sure when exactly he’d be activated from the injured list, but he said he essentially was ready.

“I’m feeling great right now,” he said. “I’ve been feeling good for the last few weeks, and hopefully here soon, we’ll be able to get back out there and start pitching in some big-league games.”

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His presence alone was meant to be one of several factors in what the Orioles hoped would be an improved bullpen this year. Hyde said during summer camp that he planned to use Harvey as much as possible, and pitching coach Doug Brocail said that Harvey was a candidate to close before his arm started bothering him.

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As it is, newcomers Cole Sulser and Travis Lakins Sr., plus largely better performances from Mychal Givens, Tanner Scott, Shawn Armstrong, Paul Fry, and Miguel Castro, have meant the inconsistency that made the relief corps so hard to rely on in 2019 is mostly gone.

Those seven are the only relievers who have been with the team the whole season, and combined have a 3.17 ERA with a 1.19 WHIP and 103 strikeouts in 85⅔ innings. Givens, Scott, Fry and Armstrong have been near-perfect in their roles.

Presumably, Harvey would be in that mix. Hyde has often gone to one of Lakins, Castro, Armstrong or Fry as the first one out of the bullpen in the middle innings, depending on the matchups. Givens and Scott have been reserved for late-inning matchups against the most dangerous right- and left-handed stretches in opposing lineups, and Sulser has been the primary closer, though his command has made that experience somewhat adventurous.

Harvey was a set-up option for Hyde last year, and adding another pitcher to that group could allow the Orioles to be more creative earlier in games to keep leads intact or keep the score close. More likely, however, Harvey could replace one of those late-inning arms if executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias is able to find a trade partner for someone such as Givens or Castro.

In that case, Harvey could be an in-house replacement for those late-inning assignments the way Scott was when Richard Bleier was dealt to the Miami Marlins earlier this month.

The plan has always been for Harvey to be activated on this road trip, Hyde said Tuesday, though Harvey said that they’re staying on the prescribed plan ahead of his activation.

“I’ve been throwing some live BPs, getting back on a mound, facing hitters,” Harvey said of his time at the Bowie camp. “We’re progressing pretty good, just taking it day-by-day and making sure everything’s good. ... I’ve been throwing everything, and we’re still going day-by-day. We’re not really sure what’s going to come this week. We’ll just kind of see what happens as each day progresses.”


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