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Oft-injured Orioles prospect Hunter Harvey to pitch without restrictions in Bowie: 'The gloves are off'

Double-A Bowie manager Buck Britton’s one-word hope for Hunter Harvey’s 2019 season matches that of the Orioles’ restocked front office, the organization’s fans and Harvey himself.

“Health,” Britton said Tuesday at the Baysox’s media day. “I think that's the biggest thing. He's got all the talent in the world, man. If we can keep him healthy and get him through a season, get him some consistent outings, I think that kid, he's got a chance to be special.”

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Harvey begins 2019 in Bowie, where he made only nine starts with a 5.57 ERA last season while battling shoulder and elbow injuries. Having yet to pitch a full season since the Orioles used their 2013 first-round draft pick on him, Harvey hopes to shake an injury bug that his bit him all over.

Orioles slugger Trey Mancini has used a refined plate approach, a relaxing practice before his at-bats, and a little bit of luck for a hot start in this surprising young season.

He threw no more than 85 pitches in any of his outings last year, exceeding 70 only twice. But Britton said that after routine start-of-the-season buildup, the right-hander won’t face any limitations.

“I think Harvey's good to go,” Britton said. “Obviously, all these guys, we're gonna have pitch counts and stuff early in the year. We can't just throw them out there, complete-game shutout every night. We've got to ease them into it, but I think Harvey's a guy that the gloves are off. We're hoping that he can develop into that top-of-the-rotation guy that everyone's hoping for."

Opportunities to pitch without restrictions, whether enforced by his body or the organization, have been rare if not nonexistent for Harvey. Only 24, he still holds plenty of time to capitalize on the potential that once made him the organization’s prized prospect.

“It's always nice knowing that I can go out there and I don't have any restraints this year,” Harvey said. “Last year was tough. I didn't have my stuff and it was just a tough year, and then to have the innings limit and how that was going, it was a little different. To finally feel normal again and be able to go out there like any other starter, it's a good feeling.

"I'm trying to hold it as much as I can.”

Orioles right-hander David Hess had no-hit stuff Monday night against the Toronto Blue Jays, even if he didn't get to see that through. Here's a look inside the numbers at what worked for him.

Harvey’s stay in major league spring training was brief — he was sent down after two appearances to get in a structured program to prepare as a starting pitcher — but he enjoyed his time there. He noticed a more laid-back environment than years past, though he laughed when asked about the organization’s adoption of advanced metrics and player analysis.

"I'm still trying to figure the analytics stuff out,” he said. “It's new to me, too.”

Left-hander Zac Lowther, 22, will share Bowie’s rotation with Harvey and also shared a locker room corner with him in Florida. With Lowther wearing sport glasses, Harvey quickly provided a nickname: Googles.

Lowther hopes to see Harvey bring the same zip as a pitcher throughout 2019.

“He brings electric stuff every time he touches the mound,” Lowther said. “I remember a couple rehab starts watching him, and it was like, 'Wow.' It's fun to watch. I hope he stays healthy. He's definitely a front-of-the-rotation guy, and just seeing how he progresses in a full season, it's gonna be fun."

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