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Feeling healthy, Orioles prospect Hunter Harvey now seeking consistency with Double-A Bowie

As Hunter Harvey walked off the mound at Bowie’s Prince George’s Stadium after 2 2/3 traffic-filled innings, his only solace was that he will get to return there sometime soon.

Making his fifth start of 2019 for the Orioles’ Double-A affiliate, Harvey, the organization’s 2013 first-round draft pick, was tagged for six runs Wednesday in his brief outing against the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Although only three were earned, that did little to comfort him after his shortest appearance of the young season.

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“It was like I've never held a baseball before,” Harvey said.

Without their annual January minicamp, all that's left to do is speculate as to what the Orioles can get from right-hander Hunter Harvey, their one-time top pitching prospect, in the coming season.

In Harvey’s case, that’s a preferred alternative to not being able to hold one at all.

His 2018 season lasted only nine starts because of shoulder and elbow injuries, a continuation of health problems that have dulled the 24-year-old right-hander’s once gleaming prospect status. He has made more than 10 starts only once in his professional career, and that 2014 season preceded missing all of 2015 and undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2016.

Healthy, Harvey’s goal becomes consistency. Making Wednesday’s rough outing, which raised his ERA to 6.20, more confounding was that it followed his best start of the season and perhaps the most effective of his seven-season professional career, in which he held the Akron RubberDucks to one hit in five scoreless innings.

"I think it's just getting out there consistently, building a routine,” Baysox manager Buck Britton said. “He's never really had — longevity's kinda been his issue, so just getting out there and getting some experience. I think the more he goes out there and does it, the more he kinda figures out how to pitch in certain situations.”

Although Harvey has allowed at least three earned runs in four of his five starts this season, both he and Britton expressed confidence in how he was throwing before Wednesday. Even in the short outing, Harvey’s fastballs hovered in the 93-95 mph range and touched 97. They got hit even harder.

Harvey’s first pitch Wednesday was an elevated fastball, and Richmond outfielder Jacob Heyward, younger brother of Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason, sent it over the left-field fence. Harvey issued a walk and hit a batter, but he ended the first inning with a double play.

He seemed to settle in with a clean second inning, but the third began with trouble when No. 9 hitter Johneshwy Fargas poked a single to right field. With Heyward up again, Fargas broke early for second, and Harvey stepped off the rubber and ran toward him, positioned to erase the runner. But Harvey threw behind Fargas to first baseman Preston Palmeiro, and Palmeiro’s low throw to second allowed Fargas to slide in safely.

Orioles pitching prospect Hunter Harvey begins 2019 with Double-A Bowie, where he made only nine starts with a 5.57 ERA last season while battling shoulder and elbow injuries. But Baysox manager Buck Britton said that after routine start-of-the-season buildup, the right-hander won’t be limited.

Heyward worked the count full in his second at-bat, and Harvey’s offering was a fastball practically in the same location as the one that became a homer. It ended with the same result, this time for two runs. With first base open, Britton would’ve preferred to see Harvey not give in to Heyward. It’s a lesson in navigating a lineup, one Orioles manager Brandon Hyde is seeing learned at the major league level.

“With a base open, maybe later on as he gains that experience and that knowledge, maybe he gets a guy to chase a ball, or if he walks him, sets up a double play, so I think it's just stuff that he'll learn as he gets out there more consistent,” Britton said. "That comes with experience. He's got stuff. He definitely has stuff. He has the ability, so now it's just the experience and the consistency of going through”

Harvey fell behind 3-1 to the next batter, Brock Stassi, who sent a middle-in fastball out to right to give Richmond back-to-back home runs. Harvey described all three home run pitches as “just fastballs that I didn’t locate.”

“That first pitch of the game, the guy ambushed him for a homer, and I think that kinda threw him off a little bit, and then his command was off,” Britton said. “When you get to this level, man, it don't matter how hard you throw or what you got. If you're in predictable counts, guys will put good swings on it."

When asked to pinpoint one thing that stood out from over eight hours of baseball, manager Brandon Hyde's response was a positive on the most frustrating aspect of his team.

Like the first inning, Harvey followed the home run with free passes, issuing two walks and hitting a batter. A caught runner on a double-steal attempt nabbed one of them, but the other two eventually came home on a single by Levi Michael that ended Harvey’s afternoon in what became a 7-3 loss, Bowie’s 20th defeat in its first 26 games.

Harvey allowed 10 base runners and got eight outs. Of his 61 pitches, 31 were balls.

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“I think as the season goes, he's gonna have outings like this,” Britton said. “Everybody's gonna have outings like this. You're gonna get roughed up, but I think as he continues to go and grow, we're gonna see some good things."

With questions of his health seemingly in the rearview, making the good days outnumber the bad becomes Harvey’s next goal.

“It's a huge step,” Harvey said. “I didn't do anything for three years other than make a couple outings here and there, so really, getting back in that groove's gonna be tough, but it's part of it.

“It's nice to be able to come off the field and get ready for the next start.”

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