There was serious cause for concern when Hunter Harvey saw his fastball velocity drop and then reported soreness in the back of his triceps on Saturday in St. Louis.
Given his injury history and importance to the back end of the bullpen, the Nationals were extra cautious with their closer, sending him home early to get an MRI on his right elbow.
The results showed a mild right elbow strain, which was considered the best-case scenario by the team. When speaking with reporters for the first time since he landed on the 15-day injured list (retroactive to July 16), Harvey didn’t seem too concerned with his latest setback.
“Just getting a little more sore than normal,” Harvey said in front of his locker before tonight’s series opener against the Giants. “The only good thing about being hurt as much as I have been, you kind of know the difference between normal soreness and stuff you don’t want to have. It’s something we jumped on early, which is good because I didn’t jump on it early last year and it cost me a couple months. So these few weeks should be good.”
The 28-year-old right-hander has dealt with his fair share of injuries throughout his career. This is his fifth trip to the major league injured list since 2020. He had a handful of injuries before his big league debut in 2019 with the Orioles, including Tommy John surgery in 2016.
Like he mentioned, the one upside to all of those ailments is knowing when it’s not too bad and when it’s really bad.
“I just know the feeling,” he said. “I can feel stuff coming that you just know when to take a couple days, take care of this and be able to pitch the rest of the year.”
When available, Harvey has been one of the most reliable relievers in manager Davey Martinez’s ‘pen. He owns a 3-4 record, 3.22 ERA, 0.992 WHIP, 10.0 strikeout-per-nine-innings rate and 3.75 strikeout-to-walk rate with nine saves.
So the team was right to be concerned, even if Harvey wasn’t.
“I’m sure they were concerned, but I kind of told them I didn’t think it was anything bad, just based on the feeling,” he said. “When I was having all this stuff before I had TJ back in 2016, now that was bad, now that’s the stuff that worried me, those feelings. This was just something out of the ordinary that I knew could lead to something bad, and we just got on it early.”
Since it’s not too serious, Harvey is just working with a normal rehab routine and strengthening. But the team remains extra cautious, with no timeline for his return.
“He's still gonna rehab, do some strengthening stuff,” Martinez said. “But I talked to him as well. He said he feels a lot better, which is great. But we're gonna be very, very careful. Knowing his history, we want to make sure that when he comes back, he's full-go. But it's good that he said he feels a lot better.”
Harvey will be eligible to come off the IL on July 31, the day before the trade deadline. The Nationals probably wouldn’t want to part ways with one of their best relief pitchers with two more seasons of contractual control. But he would be one of their best potential trade pieces with competing teams often seeking to bolster bullpens for a playoff run.
The calls could still come, and the Nationals would listen, but this injury definitely hampers the possibility and what general manager Mike Rizzo could ask for in return.
For now, Harvey will have to watch his bullpen mates pitch without him and continue his rehab in hopes of returning as soon as possible.
“It’s always tough,” Harvey said. “You want to be out there and helping the team and helping them win. It’s a great opportunity for a lot of these guys to get innings, and get innings in big moments. It’s time for somebody to step up and, hopefully, just run with it.”
* The Nationals have reportedly agreed to terms with No. 2 overall pick Dylan Crews. The Louisiana State University outfielder has reportedly agreed to a deal worth about $9 million, which is over the slot value of $8,988,500.
That would be the highest contract value given to a position player in the bonus pool era, beating Spencer Torkelson’s $8.42 million in 2020. Right-hander Paul Skenes, Crews’ college teammate and the No. 1 overall pick, reportedly signed with the Pirates for $9.2 million, breaking the overall record.
All that is left is for the contract to officially be signed, now that terms have been agreed upon and Crews has passed his physical. The Nats should announce it and hold an introductory press conference sometime this weekend.
Jon Heyman of The New York Post was the first to report the agreement and the details.
Crews is represented by super-agent Scott Boras.