The Orioles have turned a reclamation project into one of their starters to begin the 2021 season.
Veteran right-hander Matt Harvey’s contract was selected this morning and he’s on the 40-man roster and in the rotation.
Harvey, who turns 32 on Saturday, signed a minor league deal in February that included an opt-out clause this week. He could have returned to the free-agent market, but he’s headed north with the team and might start the season’s third game in Boston.
Harvey threw an extended bullpen session yesterday in Sarasota. He’s made three exhibition starts and allowed six runs and 10 hits in 10 innings with one walk, six strikeouts and two hit batters.
The most impressive outing came Saturday night against the Yankees, when he surrendered only one run and hit - Gio Urshela’s solo homer - in four innings.
“I was just looking at Matt’s numbers here - 92-95 (mph),” Hyde said afterward in his Zoom call. “I didn’t think he had the good breaking ball tonight, but he had a really good changeup, a lot of swings and misses on the changeup, as well as some bad swings. Like we talked about last time, he’s been working on that two-seamer. The two-seamer had a lot of dive to it with some over-the-top swings, as well as some swings and misses versus left-handers.
“Four-seamer was up to 95 and he had a good two-seamer and changeup tonight. He’s going to compete. He battled, didn’t let the home run faze him.”
“He’s been really good,” said infielder Pat Valaika. “I faced him maybe two years ago and he’s throwing a lot harder now. Moving the ball. He’s got a really good idea where his pitches are going and he seemed completely in control all night. I didn’t feel like I was playing defense for all that long. It was a crisp pace, he was getting the ball and throwing it.”
Harvey’s comeback really began at Baseball Performance Center in Pleasantville, N.J., where he spent three days in February absorbing the latest technology and analytics needed to replace his 100 mph fastball. The Orioles signed him less than a week later to a deal that pays $1 million in the majors.
There was no magical cure for Harvey, the former All-Star Game starter with the Mets and gatherer of Cy Young Award votes. He arrived from Miami and entered baseball’s technological world, with its high-speed cameras and slow-motion video, biomechanics, pitch design and measurement solutions.
Then, he made some adjustments in spring training with pitching coach/director of pitching Chris Holt and bullpen coach Darren Holmes.
Changes had to come for a pitcher joining his fifth organization since 2018.
Harvey has registered a 4.14 ERA and 1.247 WHIP in eight seasons. He appeared in seven games with the Royals last summer and went 0-3 with an 11.57 ERA and 2.743 WHIP in 11 2/3 innings.
Decisions are pending on two other veteran starters, Félix Hernández and Wade LeBlanc, who also have opt-out clauses. Hernández threw a light bullpen session yesterday and is improving from the elbow soreness that forced him out of a March 16 start after he faced three batters. LeBlanc was held back from last night’s trip to Fort Myers, where he was expected to pitch in relief.
The 40-man roster is full, but first baseman Chris Davis could go on the 60-day injured list. Also, the Orioles aren’t expected to carry both Rule 5 pitchers, Mac Sceroler and Tyler Wells. One or both could be placed on waivers.
Hyde doesn’t know whether the club will carry 13 or 14 pitchers and open with a five- or six-man rotation. Keegan Akin, who starts tonight against the Pirates, Jorge López, who starts Friday night against the Yankees in Tampa, and left-hander Bruce Zimmerman also are competing for spots in the rotation or bullpen.