Harvey hoping for fewer restrictions and more games in 2020

Hunter Harvey came to the Orioles in August with a set of instructions.

He didn’t write them. They were attached as if pinned to his sleeve.

Handle with care. Proceed with caution. Do not use on back-to-back days or nights.

“This end up” seemed unnecessary, but they were detailed instructions.

The Orioles don’t abuse their relievers. Managing a bullpen is a skill, one of Buck Showalter’s finest qualities, and Brandon Hyde also has made it a professional priority.

But Harvey’s case is unique to the club because of his draft status and injury history, including Tommy John surgery and the litany of setbacks. His innings total climbed to heights unseen since the 2014 season with low Single-A Delmarva. He showed up at the team hotel in Boston on a strict schedule.

Hyde wasn’t going to pitch Harvey on consecutive days or nights, though he preferred to keep it a secret from opponents. Harvey was used on Aug. 17, 20, 24, 27 and 31 and on Sept. 2 and 13 - the last gap and ensuing shutdown done because his arm wasn’t bouncing back as needed.

That’s also how a club proceeds with caution.

The transition from starter to reliever with Triple-A Norfolk still kept manager Gary Kendall spacing out Harvey’s appearances until the end of the right-hander’s minor league tenure. He worked an inning on Aug. 13 and 14 in Pawtucket and the Orioles called him up.

Will Harvey be stripped of the restrictions in 2020?

Harvey-Delivers-Orange-at-KC-Sidebar.jpg“I hope so,” he said Thursday night on the “Hot Stove Show” on 105.7 The Fan.

“I got to go back-to-back one time when I was with Norfolk and I was a little nervous about it at first, but it actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. It’s kind of crazy because I’d be starting and even on my bad days when I didn’t throw many pitches and I’d come out early, the next day I was hurting. I didn’t want to play catch or nothing. Then you go to the bullpen, you throw your inning, your 20-25 pitches if it’s a longer inning, you come back the next day and it’s like I didn’t even feel like I threw.

“That helped out a lot knowing that I could bounce back and knowing that my body was able to bounce back quick. I’m looking forward to being able to get out there and compete a little bit more than I was able to this year.”

Hyde will give Harvey the proper amount of rest, but he’ll also enjoy shedding his own restrictions. Trying to get important outs from the bullpen caused some of his biggest headaches. The pounding kind found in aspirin commercials. Harvey can provide real relief.

He has to make the team first, which is a certainty as long as he’s healthy. But Harvey isn’t making any assumptions.

“That’s kind of always been my mindset every time I’ve gone to camp is anything can happen,” he said, “so nothing’s set in stone and you’ve got to go in and you’ve got to win a job.”

He’ll win it. And he’ll exceed the seven appearances made with the Orioles, who offered him an education despite the inactivity.

“Even after I got shut down I was still out there and doing everything with the guys and getting the feel of being in the big leagues. Even the short, little time I had, 6 1/3 innings, just kind of getting my feet wet,” he said.

“Especially the last couple years with all the injuries, I had a lot of time to go through my mind if I’m ever going to get to that point. So just to be there and get my feet wet a little bit, the experience, it was such a great feeling and it’s more motivating to keep going.”

Harvey is trying to absorb the data that’s become available to the pitching staff at every level, but it’s a process that, like the rebuild, cannot be rushed.

Those lessons aren’t available back home during sessions with his father, former closer Bryan Harvey.

“It’s kind of new to me, as well,” Hunter said. “Having dad around here, who’s an old school guy, you don’t ever really work with stuff like that. But I talked to Chris Holt a few times this offseason and during the year and (Doug) Brocail tried to help explain it, and Was (John Wasdin).

“It’s just something new and I’m sure I’ll be able to benefit from it. And I’m really right now just trying to learn how to use it, so it’s a work in progress.”

As for Harvey’s exact role in the bullpen, he could become the primary closer from the outset or later in the summer. But Hyde also could call upon him to preserve a lead in the seventh or eighth innings.

Titles aren’t as important as a set of instructions.

So who’s the better closer, Harvey or Stevie Wilkerson?

“I think he’s got me beat right now,” Harvey said. “He’s got more saves than I do, so I’ll have to go with him.”

“Well, I mean, you can’t beat the percentage I’ve got,” Wilkerson said. “I’ll take his stuff over mine.”

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