Hunter Harvey exits 6-2 loss with oblique injury (Fenter returned)

Orioles reliever Hunter Harvey threw one pitch today and left the mound. The same questions about injuries and durability followed him.

At least it wasn’t Harvey’s arm, the only good news attached to the scene.

The Orioles announced that Harvey injured his left oblique, which should keep him off the opening day roster and adjust the team’s bullpen plans.

An oblique doesn’t heal quickly. The Orioles have plenty of references at their disposal.

Today was supposed to mark the third appearance for Harvey, who began last season on the injured list with a sore elbow, but his stay was brief. Though he hasn’t allowed a run or hit in two innings, he’s walked three batters and suffered one more setback.

Mickey Moniak saw the one pitch and had to face knuckleballer Mickey Jannis as Harvey headed to the trainers’ room and the Orioles completed their 6-2 loss to the Phillies at Ed Smith Stadium.

Thumbnail image for Harvey-Delivers-Orange-at-KC-Sidebar.jpg“I heard him kind of groan and then double over,” manager Brandon Hyde said on his Zoom call. “I was hoping for the best, I was hoping it wasn’t an arm or shoulder or elbow, something like that. But right away, I could tell by the way he was breathing that it was something in his side. It’s a left oblique, so it is what it is right now and reevaluate as we go along.”

The Orioles made Harvey the 22nd overall pick in the 2013 draft, but he’s been derailed and limited to 17 relief appearance in the majors because of a multitude of injuries that includes a torn elbow ligament and Tommy John surgery in 2016.

Harvey got into 10 games last summer and allowed four earned runs (six total) in 8 2/3 innings.

A spot has become available in the bullpen and changed how the back end is structured. Hyde isn’t rushing to figure out the alternatives, still processing what transpired this afternoon.

“I haven’t sat down and thought about it much. It happened 45 minutes ago,” he said.

“It just opens the door for somebody to break with us and we’ll give opportunity to guys and somebody needs to step up.”

The announcement of John Means as opening day starter is just a formality. To declare the winner in a one-horse race can’t be described in any other manner.

Only an injury is going to deny Means of the honor, and lightening doesn’t figure to strike twice.

Means is healthy and coming off his best outing of the spring, the first Orioles pitcher to work four innings while allowing only one run and two hits.

The first two starts produced no strikeouts. Means had four today, along with one walk.

Means retired the side in order in the first inning, but walked Alec Bohm leading off the second and C.J. Chatham followed with a run-scoring double. A ground ball and a pair of strikeouts got Means back in the dugout with minimal damage.

Nine of the last 10 batters were retired before César Valdez entered. Means threw 60 pitches, 42 for strikes.

“Probably the best I’ve felt,” he said. “I thought the fastball was definitely there, the fastball was really crisp today, but there’s still some work to be done. I’ve got to work on that slider a little bit. I thought I threw some pretty good changeups, some decent curveballs, but the fastball was definitely there.”

Said Hyde: “I thought Meansie threw the ball really well. Just a couple mistakes that got hit hard, but besides that, I thought really good life to his fastball. I thought he flashed some good changeups again, breaking ball was good. He was super competitive, he was pounding the zone. Nine-pitch inning in the first, which was outstanding. So I thought he really did a nice job and he’s on track.”

How important was it for a pitcher who’s assured a spot on the team to turn in this kind of performance?

“I was just pleased to get a strikeout,” Means quipped. “I was happy to get that one out of the way first batter.”

Pat Valaika took his latest shot at winning a utility job, or perhaps bumping Rio Ruiz from third base. He led off the third with an infield hit, advanced on Yolmer Sánchez’s third hit in the last two days, and scored on Ryan McKenna’s sacrifice fly.

Sánchez scored the go-ahead run on Austin Hays’ single. However, Paul Fry served up a three-run homer to left-handed hitting Nick Maton in the sixth for a 4-2 Phillies lead.

On that swing, Fry had allowed nine runs and 10 hits in three innings this spring. He returned for the seventh, hit the leadoff batter and gave up an infield single that produced a run on throwing errors by Valaika and Trey Mancini.

Edgar Cabral walked and Darick Hall’s sacrifice fly increased the lead to 6-2. Isaac Mattson replaced Fry, whose updated spring line shows 10 earned runs (11 total) in 3 2/3 innings.

“I’m not worried about Paul Fry,” Hyde said. “I know he’s not getting the results that he’s wanting. He got ambushed a little again today, but he’s throwing 93-94 (mph), the slider’s good. I think he’s just having a couple spring training outings. I have a lot of confidence in Paul. He’s coming off a good year, his stuff looks good, it’s just not working right now in spring training. But it’s mainly about him throwing strikes and the shape of his pitchers, which are good, and I think we’ll see him pitch well going forward.”

Anthony Santander drew his seventh walk in 15 plate appearances in the first inning, but Mancini grounded into a double play.

Mancini, a year removed from his colon cancer surgery, singled in his next at-bat.

Santander is exhibiting a keener eye at the plate this spring, which prevents him from chasing pitches out of the zone. The “gone fishing” sign has been taken down.

Valdez made his second spring appearance and stranded two runners, striking out the last two batters and raising his total to five.

The Orioles made five more cuts after the game, reassigning reliever Evan Phillips to the Twin Lakes Park camp and optioning Mattson and starters Michael Baumann, Zac Lowther and Alexander Wells - the four prospects added to the 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 draft - to Triple-A Norfolk.

Wells never got into a game due to a sore oblique. Baumann pitched on the back fields.

Update: The Cubs have returned right-hander Gray Fenter, selected in the Rule 5 draft in December, to the Orioles. Fenter has been assigned to major league spring training as a camp reserve and will report to the Twin Lakes Park camp.

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