Decision pending on Harvey’s role to begin 2018 season

If the Orioles continue to resist trading one of their top relievers, and more phone calls will roll in with clubs viewing them as having a surplus, they’re going to break camp next spring with a bullpen that includes closer Zach Britton, Brad Brach, Darren O’Day, Mychal Givens and Richard Bleier.

The number of relievers can’t be pinpointed as long as there’s the possibility of an adjusted early rotation and bench. The Orioles won’t necessarily begin with the standard five starters, seven relievers and four reserves. The schedule and potential health issues always factor into the equation.

Try doing the math now and you’ll need an eraser.

Miguel Castro will vie for a spot in the rotation and his inclusion creates more room in the bullpen. But no matter how it all shakes out, there’s the potential for Hunter Harvey to make the club as a reliever.

Hunter Harvey throws orange.pngInternal discussions already have taken place regarding Harvey, whose 38 minor league appearances have come as a starter. Is he physically ready? Is it wise to change his role? Can he handle it? Would the Orioles be rushing him?

Harvey could be used in the same fashion as Dylan Bundy in 2016. Eased into major league competition in the early months and perhaps working his way into the rotation later in the summer. Their careers already are taking similar paths due to their first-round draft statuses and ligament-reconstructive surgeries in their right elbows.

Bundy was pitching at Double-A Bowie before undergoing his procedure. Harvey, 22, hasn’t advanced past low Single-A Delmarva. And Bundy was out of options and had to stay on the roster. It isn’t the exact same path.

Enthusiasm over Harvey’s recovery and return to top prospect status reverberates throughout the organization. He allowed only two runs and struck out 30 batters in 18 2/3 innings this summer after returning to the mound. His stuff was nasty and it provided another reminder of why the Orioles believed he would move quickly through the system prior to his injuries - which also included a strained flexor mass and fractured fibula.

“I saw two rehab assignments and I’m extremely encouraged. It’s exciting,” said director of player development Brian Graham.

“If he stays healthy, he’s got a chance to be really good. He’s got three plus pitches - a fastball, curveball and a changeup.”

The expectation in spring training - and granted, it’s a weighty one - is that Harvey will keep throwing the heck out of the ball and make it harder for the Orioles to send him down. That age and inexperience won’t matter to a club that’s desperate to improve its pitching staff. Put him beside other candidates and he could put them to shame.

Otherwise, the only decision is whether the Orioles keep Harvey at the Single-A level or bump him to Bowie.

“I don’t think where he starts next year is really important,” Graham said. “I think where he finishes will be important. But where he starts, let’s just get him in a rotation and get him pitching every fifth day and getting that command back and stretching his innings out.”

The expansion might begin in the bullpen. We’ll see.

* Left-hander Keegan Akin tossed three scoreless innings and earned the win yesterday in Salt River’s 6-5 victory over Mesa in the Arizona Fall League. Akin allowed one hit and struck out two.

Third baseman Ryan Mountcastle drove in two runs and stole a base. Mountcastle hit his first home run Monday night.

Second baseman Steve Wilkerson went 2-for-4 with an RBI in Tuesday night’s game against Mesa.

* Tickets are on sale for Adam Jones’ fifth annual #StayHungry Purple Tailgate, to be held on Nov. 27 before the Ravens’ Monday night game against the Texans. Proceeds benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore.

The event, which runs from 3:30-8 p.m. at the Stadium Square parking lot on 152 W. Ostend St., has raised more than $80,000 since its inception.

Tickets can be purchased on BMOREAroundTown.com. Click here for more information.

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