Hunter Harvey has mixed feelings.
He wasn't exactly happy about being shut down for 2019 season, but he understands the motivation behind the decision.
The Orioles didn't want to take any unnecessary chances after Harvey felt some soreness in his right biceps at the beginning of the month. Harvey is no longer bothered by the injury, and he is ready to play a vital role with the team moving forward.
"It stinks, but I know their reasoning. All in all, I think it's been a good year, so I'm happy with it," Harvey said. "I finally just got out of that crazy little snowball I was in. I worked hard again this past offseason, just trying to prepare, get my body right, and it finally just held up."
Harvey, 24, made his MLB debut Aug. 17 and made an immediate impact in the bullpen. He appeared in seven games (6.1 innings) and allowed just one run and three hits with 11 strikeouts and one walk. Harvey had a 1.42 ERA, 1.105 WHIP and 0.3 WAR (Baseball Reference).
Overall, Harvey pitched 82 innings between the Orioles' minor-league affiliates and with the major-league club in 2019. He was relieved to make it through the entire season healthy, and that will bode well for his confidence heading into spring training.
"Mentally, it's going to help out a lot," he said about pitching this late into the season. "The last couple years, it's been a month or two in and something gives out, so to make it this far in September is huge for me."
Harvey was selected by the Orioles in the first round of the 2013 MLB Draft from Bandys High School in Catawba, N.C. He appeared to be on the fast track to the majors when he went 7-5 with a 3.18 ERA in 17 starts for Low-A Delmarva the following year.
His progress was hampered by injuries.
Harvey was shut down in May 2015 because of elbow tightness and never appeared in a game for any of the Orioles' minor-league teams that season. The following year, he underwent Tommy John surgery, which ended another season.
Harvey mounted his comeback in 2017, going 0-1 with 0.96 ERA with 30 strikeouts in 18.2 innings for the Gulf Coast Orioles, Short-A Aberdeen and Delmarva. Harvey was hampered by shoulder injuries in 2018 and was limited to 32.1 innings (nine starts) for Double-A Bowie, where he went 1-2 with a 5.57 ERA during that stretch. He was called up to the 25-man roster in April but never made an appearance.
Harvey's career got back on track this season, going 2-5 with a 5.19 ERA in 11 starts for Bowie. He was then shifted to the bullpen where he thrived, posting a 2.81 ERA with 33 strikeouts and seven walks in 25.2 innings between the Baysox and Norfolk Tides.
Harvey's preference is to stay in the bullpen. There is already talk that he could compete for the closer role in 2020 with a fastball that has been clocked over 100 mph.
"I loved it. It's been awesome," he said about the move to the bullpen. "When we moved to the bullpen at first it was like, 'Let's try to figure this out,' and it ended up working out pretty good.
"Hopefully it's the same. Like I said, I haven't been told anything, but hopefully it's the same."
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde likes what Harvey brings to the team. He said the team will meet during the offseason and map out a plan for him moving forward.
While the Orioles have not completely ruled him out as a starter, they know the value he brings to the bullpen.
"I think it's something we're still talking about and we'll continue to talk about it early on in this offseason," Hyde said. "He looks so good in that relief role and it's hard to ignore that. And it's hard to ignore how comfortable he looked pitching late in the game. His stuff is just exceptional, so I think we'll consider everything, but he looked great in that late-inning role."
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles