Orioles right-hander Hunter Harvey, who made his second major league spring training start in Tuesday’s 9-8 loss to the Minnesota Twins, said he doesn't feel like there's much between where he is now and where he needs to be to be a major league starter.
"I feel like I'm close," Harvey said. "I need to get my off-speed command a little bit better. I'd like to throw more strikes with it and feel it day by day better, but I do think I'm ready."
Manager Buck Showalter said after the outing that he believes Harvey will get another chance to pitch in the Grapefruit League, with the team trying to keep its primary starters away from divisional opponents this spring. But so far this spring, the 2013 first-round draft pick made it known that if he's not ready just yet, he's back to where he was as a top pitching prospect before a variety of injuries including one that required Tommy John surgery in 2016.
Against a lineup full of Twins regulars, Harvey battled his command a bit and walked two, but was only harmed by shortstop Jorge Polanco’s one-out home run in the second inning.
“He was pretty impressive,” Showalter said. “You can tell he feels really good physically. That's the most important thing. Command was good in spots, but it was good to get him back out there. But he threw the ball well.”
Harvey began his day by getting second baseman Brian Dozier to strike out looking at a 96 mph fastball on the outside corner, and worked with his fastball in the 94-96 mph range all throughout the first while mixing in his curveball and changeup as well.
His fastball was mostly at 94 mph in the second inning, and he endured some long at-bats, but the overall result of throwing over 50 pitches was a welcome challenge for someone who has been limited to short rehabilitation starts since his elbow injury first cropped up in July 2014. He’s pitched 31 1/3 innings in game innings since, with 53 pitches thrown in his final start of 2017.
"It's nice to be able to throw 50 pitches again," Harvey said. "My fastball felt better today. Still working on the off-speed stuff. I threw a good changeup, and had one I pulled and put in the dirt. But my body feels good. It felt better today."
While he's on the 40-man roster and features one of the best arms in camp regardless of his level of seasoning, the Orioles' handling of Harvey this spring and into the season will be a subject of great interest both inside the organization and around the game.
One National League scout in attendance who requires anonymity to speak publicly on other teams' players said in a text message: "Good stuff, long way to go still. He can help them at some point this year."