BOSTON - A fulltime pitching role for Hunter Harvey, whether he’s back in the rotation or staying in the bullpen, is one of the many important decisions that the Orioles need to make after playing their final game.
The kid, and he still qualifies at age 24, would seemingly benefit from a concrete plan.
The kicker here, of course, is that Harvey’s string of injuries hasn’t gotten tangled in the 2019 season. The discussion centers on how to use him properly and his results. Not the latest shutdown period and whether he’ll ever pitch in the majors.
Triple-A Norfolk manager Gary Kendall has looked at Harvey from both sides now, including their stint together at Double-A Bowie prior to the 2019 season. He’s watched the starts in the Eastern League and the transition to reliever that carried over to the Tides.
Harvey posted a 4.32 ERA in 12 appearances with Norfolk, but five of his eight runs came over 1 1/3 innings in a July 13 game in Durham.
“The most he’s gone for us is two innings,” Kendall said. “We’ve used him back-to-back, we’ve given him some days off, we’ve brought him in in some inherited situations, so we’ve used him in various roles as a reliever and I see at times a very overpowering fastball. I think the biggest difference between last year to this year has been the location of his fastball. There’s been a lot of quality, moving it around.
“He’s mixed well. He’s mixed his split, he’s mixed his curveball in. But he pitches with aggression coming out of the ‘pen. As of late he has not pitched behind in counts. He’s really gone out and attacked the zone early where he’s gotten the count in his favor and he’s been able to execute pitches.”
Harvey’s fastball was touching 99 mph with Norfolk, as it did last night, and sitting around 95 with angle to go with a sharp breaking ball and a split that had “a lot of power and bottom action to it,” Kendall said.
Whether the bullpen is Harvey’s permanent home and where he’ll find professional action is a matter to be determined later.
“It’s funny because I guess there’s always been various opinions about whether he should be a starter or reliever,” Kendall said. “I know he looks very comfortable in this role and his arm seems to be resilient enough to come back day to day and show the same arm strength and the same quality that presented itself the night before.
“It’s a role that, for my experience with him, it looked like it suits him well. But of course the organization makes the decision on whether he’s going to be a rotation guy or stay as a reliever. But he’s been impressive as far as his command of his fastball and his development of his secondary pitches, and he’s getting to his secondary pitches. It isn’t just all fastballs. And he’s pitching. So it’s been very positive.
“Hopefully he maintains that and provides that up there.”
Harvey’s father, former closer Bryan Harvey, likes the new arrangement.
“Actually, it’s easier for me to watch him be a reliever. He’s not out there as long,” said Bryan, who made his major league debut against the Orioles on May 16, 1987 in Anaheim.
“I was hoping that he could stay a starter, but he just struggled in that role this year. He’d have a good outing, a bad outing. When he went to the bullpen, after his outing he called and said, ‘Dad, my mind was so much freer tonight.’ I said, ‘That’s what we’ve been looking for all year.’ He said, ‘Well, as a starter I’m trying to figure out how to go seven, eight innings and now, I just go throw it.’ And it’s working.”
The organization celebrated Harvey’s return to the majors after the half-cup of coffee in April 2018. No one has been closer to the process than Kendall, managing him at the two highest levels in the farm system and providing encouragement through the various setbacks in the Eastern League.
“We were all very excited for him and it’s much deserved,” said Kendall, who called Harvey late Monday night with news of the promotion.
“Here’s a guy who’s a lot more mature. Not that he was ever immature, but his body physically is much more mature. He handles the composure and the poise factor very well. So we were all very, very happy for him. Certainly deserved.”
As for today’s game, which closes out the road trip, left-hander Ty Blach gets a second chance to impress after starting the nightcap of Monday’s doubleheader in the Bronx and allowing six earned runs and seven total in four innings.
Blach has never faced the Red Sox. J.D. Martinez is 1-for-4 with a double, walk and two strikeouts and Chris Owings is 0-for-3.
Harvey will likely stay in the bullpen after throwing 21 pitches last night and striking out two batters in a scoreless eighth inning.
Dean Kremer made his Triple-A debut yesterday in Game 1 of Norfolk’s doubleheader in Syracuse and allowed six runs and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings. He walked one and struck out six.