When the Orioles made talented, young right-hander Hunter Harvey the 22nd pick in the First-Year Player Draft in 2013, it was inevitable that he would make the 40-man roster someday. But Harvey had no idea it would come after he had dealt with several injuries and one major surgery.
Harvey once again has the look of a top 100 pitching prospect and now he is one of 33 on the Orioles’ 40-man roster. He joined pitcher David Hess and catcher Austin Wynns as 40-man additions yesterday. Now that trio cannot be taken by another club in the Rule 5 draft next month.
“I’m just excited,” said Harvey, who turns 23 on Dec. 9. “The last couple of years have been kind of tough and now finally getting some good news. Hopefully, everything is looking up from here. It is kind of like a reward, I guess you can say.”
Harvey has dealt with a shin injury and had a sports hernia procedure, but the Tommy John surgery in July 2016 was the big one. It limited the one-time top 100 prospect to 31 1/3 combined innings in 2016 and 2017.
Harvey returned to pitch last season on July 19 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. That was pretty impressive that he got back into a game one week shy of a year out from his surgery.
Then Harvey got a bit of a surprise. He was throwing the ball better sooner than expected and his velocity quickly came all the way back as he touched 96 and 97 mph late in the summer. Over 18 2/3 combined innings between the GCL Orioles, short-season Single-A Aberdeen and Single-A Delmarva, he gave up just 11 hits and two runs with six walks to 30 strikeouts. He averaged 14.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
“I felt really good and everything worked even a little better than I thought it might,” Harvey said. “I didn’t have the highest hopes of doing great. Coming off the Tommy John, it had been so long and there had been so much time off. But I went out there and everything worked for me. My command wasn’t as bad as I thought it could be and all my pitches worked pretty good.
“My side sessions (before that game action) really weren’t that great. It was patchy. I had some good ones and some bad ones. For some reason, when I got into a game, it was like something clicked and a different person came out.”
It can take some pitchers months to get their velocity back to pre-surgery levels once they return to pitching in games, but it seemed to come fast for Harvey in those 18 2/3 innings.
“It felt like it and the numbers were pretty good,” he said. “The secondary pitches were also starting to come back. It seemed like every game I had one or the other (the changeup or curveball), but never both. It wasn’t consistent and I kind of thought that could be the case.”
Now Harvey looks forward to a normal winter leading to spring training. He will be at the Orioles camp in Sarasota, Fla., for the third time, but first as a player on the 40-man roster.
There are two key questions to be answered about Harvey: How many innings will the Orioles let him throw next season and will he make the majors at some point, even though he has yet to pitch past Delmarva’s level?
“It has always been my goal and dream to make the majors,” Harvey said. “Even during rehab, I knew I was doing this for a reason. I’m sure I might not have the greatest chance to make the team out of camp, but I will go in there to show them that I think I’m ready and I’ll try to prove it to them. That will be my mentality for all year next year. Try to dominate wherever I’m at and make it to the highest level I can.
“I want to remain healthy, pitch a full season and not be on the DL. The last few years have been tough, mentally and physically, with all the injuries. So pitching a full season and being healthy is a main goal right now.”
Meanwhile, Hess was pretty pumped about his addition to the roster. The 24-year-old went 11-9 with a 3.85 ERA over 154 1/3 innings in 2017 for Double-A Bowie. He finished strong, going 3-2 with a 2.25 ERA over his last six starts. In that span, he walked seven and fanned 33 over 40 innings. He gave up just a .163 average against.
Then yesterday a nice phone call interrupted a frustrating drive in rush-hour traffic in Greenville, S.C.
“It is kind of surreal right now,” Hess said last night during a phone interview. “It is an exciting thing and great honor. I was driving home after working out and stuck in traffic when I got the call. We are visiting my wife’s family in Greenville when B.G. (Brian Graham, the club’s director of player development) called. So I got to come home and share it with them.
“It is a hard feeling to explain. I kind of felt there was a possibility, but you’re never sure so there were some nerves. When you get that call, it is a feeling that is hard to describe.”
Later this week, I’ll have more with Hess on making the 40-man and his 2017 season.
Wynns was also very appreciative of getting added to the 40-man. He’s been playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic and is batting .200 in 18 games.
Want to thank the @Orioles for the opportunity. I have had a lot of people reach out today & that means a lot to me. A huge thanks to my family, friends & fans that have watched me play for the support. I hope to help & bring a championship to the city of Baltimore.-- Austin Wynns (@AustinWynns) November 21, 2017
Let’s go O’s