Part of what’s made Matt Harvey’s start with the Orioles the best he’s pitched in years is that he’s learned to simply compete with what he has on a given day.
That doesn’t mean he’s fully given up hope that he can go back to being the pitcher he was when he was with the New York Mets, the team he’ll face Wednesday in his first start at Citi Field since May 2018.
“I think in years past, the last couple years, I’ve been fighting so hard to try to get back to, you know, I guess blowing fastballs by people and throwing 97-100 [mph],” Harvey said after a recent start.
“I think I’ve come to grips that that’s not, at least, going to happen right now. I’m not saying it’s never going to happen. I hope it does, but if it doesn’t, I have to go out there and compete with what I have. I think realizing that a little bit and like I said, just putting the hard work in, and trusting the work that I do in between starts, and being able to go out there and use what I have and attack.”
Harvey, who has a 3.60 ERA and a 1.286 WHIP with 25 strikeouts in 35 innings for the Orioles, has been candid about his progress and how he’s come to grips with how far he’s come since he was dominating with the Mets from 2012 to 2015. He’s relieved to finally be healthy and work with an Orioles coaching staff that not only has helped him find a consistent delivery, but also helps bring out the best pitch shapes for him.
He said he went to a training facility in New Jersey, the Baseball Performance Center, where he saw the data on how his pitches can be most effective and picked a analytics-minded team that could continue to build on that.
Since signing on the eve of spring training, Harvey has outlined how it has also benefited him not to have to think about his delivery so much on the mound, instead trying to just execute pitches.
All that comes with a better understanding of how to attack hitters, rather than simply throwing a fastball and slider the way he did in his prime.
“I think pitching a little bit differently is the biggest difference,” he said.
“I think going over the scouting reports, going over the pitch shapes with [pitching coach] Chris Holt in between starts, where we kind of want to start things and end things pitch-wise, has been the biggest help. We’ve got to keep that going, keep my head down and just keep pushing along.”
Manager Brandon Hyde said Harvey’s arsenal evolving has been key to his success with the Orioles.
“I’m impressed with him. He started working on his sinker in spring training and it’s been a nice weapon for him,” Hyde said. “It’s 93-94 [mph], it’s got great action. He’s got the four-seamer, he’s got the sinker now. He’s getting more and more confident with his changeup. The slider has improved since spring training, and he’s gone out and he’s attacked hitters since the season started. I’ve watched him for years and no how competitive he is and how he wants the ball, and he’s had a really nice start to the year. I think he’s been building on it. I know he’s in a good place right now.”
Harvey hardly threw the sinker since 2018, according to MLB’s Statcast data, but has thrown the pitch 22.5% of the time this season and mostly gotten ground balls and soft contact on it. The Orioles’ infield defense hasn’t done him many favors with those.
Still, Harvey is proving vital to an inexperienced Orioles rotation. He has more major league experience than the rest of the starters combined, and with his salary at $1 million this year, him pitching well could mean he could bring back some talent in a trade come the August deadline.
For now, the Orioles are happy to have him.
“I think he’s appreciative of the opportunity,” Hyde said. “He really likes the coaching staff. He really likes the clubhouse. I’ve talked to him, and he loves being here. He’s having a lot of fun. Obviously having success helps that, and pitching well, him being healthy helps that. But I know he’s really enjoying his time right now. That’s been the most impressive thing, just the way he is on a day-to-day basis.
“He was really upset after his last start because he didn’t feel like he gave the team a better chance to win. He’s a team-first guy and I felt like he did, so we disagreed about that. He’s been really fun to have and he’s been a pro in every way. He’s been a help to younger players and the coaching staff loves having him around. It’s been all positive so far.”
Wednesday, 12:10 p.m.
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