SARASOTA, Fla. - The first day of Orioles minicamp wrapped up this morning with Rule 5 pick Nestor Cortes Jr. completing a bullpen session, pitchers running sprints and Dariel Álvarez playing catch on flat ground as he recovers from ligament-reconstructive surgery on his right elbow.
Álvarez is converting from outfielder to reliever.
Manager Buck Showalter is joined by pitching coach Roger McDowell, bullpen coach Alan Mills, bench coach John Russell, special assignment pitching instructor Ramón Martinez and roving pitching coordinator Dave Schmidt, among others.
The Camden Yards replica field is being renovated and the batter’s eye must be replaced on three fields due to the damage inflicted by Hurricane Irma. Some fencing is bent and a few trees came down, but otherwise the facility is in good condition.
Hunter Harvey no longer has any health issues. The former first-round pick appeared in eight games over the summer following his Tommy John surgery, allowing only two runs in 18 2/3 innings, and is ready to embark on a full season that could take him anywhere.
“I feel really good so far,” he said. “I’ve been throwing for about a month and it all feels good. My body’s feeling good. Everything’s feeling good so far.”
Harvey hasn’t pitched above the South Atlantic League, where he made three starts with low Single-A Delmarva last summer and 17 back in 2014. He has no idea where the Orioles will assign him this spring, but he’s expecting to move quickly through the system, the same projection that hung on him before a series of physical setbacks that culminated with the elbow surgery.
“I feel like I’m ready to go,” said Harvey, who turned 23 last month. “The ball feels good coming out, my arm feels good, body feels good. Just ready for the season to start.
“It’s nice to be able to throw and not have pain, so that’s a first in a couple years. It’s really nice.”
The Orioles wanted Harvey to enjoy a normal offseason, resting up for minicamp and spring training rather than pitching in the Arizona Fall League or in winter ball.
“It was nice, he said. “The first time not rehabbing in an offseason and being able to hunt and hang out with family and friends and just work out and being in a normal program. It was nice.”
Both sides will need to show the necessary restraint. Harvey can’t rush himself back after missing the entire 2015 season and making five and eight starts over the next two summers. The Orioles can’t succumb to the temptation to bring him north when they break camp, no matter how much he impresses.
“I’ve got no clue, really, he said. “I’m just down here hanging out and seeing everybody and will play catch and just enjoy the time down here.”
The Orioles could bump up Harvey to high Single-A Frederick or be bolder and assign him to Double-A Bowie.
“I haven’t really thought about that,” he said. “I’m just trying to get ready for spring and hopefully have a good spring.”
And avoid any further setbacks to a promising career.
“Just not playing the last couple of years, I still feel like I learned stuff,” he said. “I sat down here every day watching baseball for seven months, so every day I was still trying to pick something up and learn something. Not pitching for three years is tough, but I do still feel like I learned a little bit.”