Orioles rookie reliever Hunter Harvey was conspicuous in his absence from another bullpen collapse in Wednesday’s 11-10 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, and it turned out there was a reason.
Manager Brandon Hyde said Harvey was shut down for the season before the game. The former first-round draft pick has been a dynamic addition to the Orioles’ bullpen in the past month but has pitched just twice in September.
“We felt like he’s thrown enough innings this year, and he’s just not quite rebounding from a little bit of soreness that he had,” Hyde said. “We figured that we’d get him ready for next spring training. We’re really happy with the year that he’s had and we want to end it healthy. That’s the first thing. Hunter is going to be with us, but I won’t pitch him for the rest of the year.”
After Harvey pitched Sept. 2 against the Tampa Bay Rays, he had over a week before he pitched again Sept. 13 as he dealt with biceps soreness. Hyde said that outing didn’t make anything worse, instead presenting the shutdown as a good way to end Harvey’s season on a high note.
“We just feel like he’s thrown enough, and we feel like we’re really happy with the year he’s had, and want him to take the offseason and get ready for spring training,” Hyde said. “There’s  games to go or something like that. It didn’t feel like it was necessary to have him pitch anymore.”
Harvey said on Thursday he is on board with the decision, but isn’t thrilled to be sidelined for the final 11 games of the season.
“It stinks,” he said, “but I know their reasoning and all in all I think it’s been a good year, so I’m happy with it.”
The arm soreness, he said, was not a major problem and he will head into the offseason ready to embark on largely the same routine that allowed him to pitch a full season for the first time as a professional.
“Feels good,” he said. “It’s getting better every day. There was nothing really ever wrong. It was just normal season stuff.”
If he was concerned that he was in danger of breaking down yet again, he didn’t let on.
“No. I pitched in Detroit. Everything was fine. Velo’s still fine. Nothing mentally for me, I never thought it was bad,” he said.
Harvey had a breakout 2014 season in his first full year, but had his season end in July and missed most of the next four seasons with myriad injuries that included Tommy John elbow surgery. He had pitched 63 2/3 innings from 2015-18 as a result.
He began this year in the rotation at Double-A Bowie, but was moved to the bullpen in early June to manage his innings but also try out a role for which his live arm might be better suited.
Harvey had a 6.12 ERA and a 1.62 WHIP in 50 innings as a starter for the Baysox. But between there and Triple-A Norfolk, he had a 2.81 ERA with a 0.818 WHIP and 33 strikeouts in 25 2/3 as a reliever before he was promoted Aug. 17.
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Harvey allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings over seven outings, striking out 11 with a 1.11 WHIP out of the Orioles’ bullpen, giving him 82 total innings over the three levels.
If pitching out of the bullpen was a foreign concept, Harvey embraced it and now believes it might be where he belongs.
“I loved it,” he said. “It’s been awesome. Like I said, when I moved to the bullpen at first, it was kind of ‘Let’s try to figure this out,’ but it worked out pretty good. ... It was big because it let me pitch this far. I didn’t know I was going to excel like this. I never thought that was going to be what would happen, but it worked out.”
Still, the Orioles liked what they saw and saw no reason to push Harvey any further this season.
“He’s thrown more this year than he has in a long, long time, and never thrown this late in a year, and we just want to keep him healthy,” Hyde said. “So, we decided [Wednesday] afternoon to shut him down for the rest of the year.”
Though he pitched largely in a setup role in the majors, Harvey’s 99 mph fastball and family pedigree makes it easy to project him as a closer. His father Bryan was a terrific closer during the 1980s, but Harvey said he never really gave closing a serious thought.
“I never thought about it, no,” he said. “I’ve started my whole life. I’ve never worked out the bullpen until this year. I’ve enjoyed it a lot. Either way, if I go back to starting or stay in the pen, I’ll be happy and pitch to the best of my ability, but I’ve enjoyed it a lot.”