The contract was signed and workouts monitored. The ball was handed to him today in Dunedin, Fla. But Matt Harvey wouldn’t really fit in with the Orioles until he faced Blue Jays outfielder Randal Grichuk.
Now he’s truly a member of the club.
Making his debut appearance, Harvey loaded the bases in the first inning and Grichuk drove in two runs with a double in Toronto’s 13-4 win in Dunedin.
Rule 5 pick Mac Sceroler served up a two-run homer to Riley Adams and three-run shot to Josh Palacios in the eighth. The game was halted with only one out and Sceroler at 28 pitches.
DJ Stewart left the game in the second inning after beating out a ground ball, with Stevie Wilkerson pinch-running and playing right field. Stewart is 2-for-8 with two home runs and four RBIs in three games.
“He tweaked his hamstring a little bit, so I don’t think it’s anything serious,” manager Brandon Hyde said on his Zoom call. “We’ll know tomorrow, but tightened up on him a little bit going down the line.”
Grichuk is a career .338/.375/.809 hitter with 17 doubles, 19 home runs and 44 RBIs in 168 plate appearances against the Orioles during the regular season.
The month and pitcher don’t matter.
The Blue Jays loaded the bases with one out after Harvey retired leadoff hitter George Springer on one pitch. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. reached on an infield single, Rowdy Tellez doubled and Teoscar Hernández was hit by a pitch with the count full.
Cavan Biggio popped up, bringing Grichuk to the plate. The rest felt predictable.
Danny Jansen led off the second with an opposite-field home run. Harvey was charged with three runs and four hits with no walks or strikeouts in two innings in his Orioles debut.
“Looking back, obviously it was a rough first inning,” he said on his Zoom call. “I faced a lot of those guys that were in their lineup, and knowing that they were going to come out swinging. I think they know that I throw a lot of strikes and kind of pound the zone, so I think having to make that adjustment a little bit earlier was something that I should have done.
“I think today, especially, I was kind of babying the off-speed a little bit and that’s kind of what hurt me. I didn’t give up really much on the fastball and got some early outs and some weak contact off that, and for me that’s a good sign. I think for the first outing and getting that out of the way and realizing that I really have to go out and throw the off-speed like I did my fastball, and things will start falling in the right direction.
“I think getting the feel for the fastball, getting late contact, weak contact, with the fastball is huge, especially this early in camp. Me, in kind of a different situation having to make the team, obviously I want to go out and not give up any hits or runs and punch everybody out, but I think this early in camp and where things are, we’ve done a lot with my mechanics and those felt pretty good today. I think trusting those and getting deeper into camp and really throwing the fastball the way I did today, continuing that, and being able to really let go on the off-speed is the big improvement that I need to do from today.”
The minor league contract pays Harvey $1 million if he makes the club. The results are going to matter more than in the past.
“I haven’t had to make a team since probably 2011,” he said. “It’s definitely different. I’m not happy about the results today by any means. Every start matters in my mind. Obviously, it’s the first one and I know what I did wrong and I know kind of the fix, I guess. I think every time I pick up a baseball and every time I go to the park and do all the side work, do workouts, in my mind, everything’s being watched and that’s how I’ve been going at it every day.
“I’m not happy about the results today, but being able to pinpoint what the mistakes were is something I’ll work on this week and hopefully fix by the next start.”
Said Hyde: “He’s along with everybody else, first outing. I thought his fastball had life to it. I thought he gave up a couple soft hits that resulted in some runs. The first inning, Grichuk hit an off the ground, end of the bat double down the left field line that scored a couple. I thought he actually made a good slider, a good pitch, to Jansen down and away. This is a good place to hit and he hit it out to right-center, but besides that I thought he threw the ball well. It was only his first outing and he can build off that.”
Valaika hit a solo home run off Hyun Jin Ryu in the top of the second inning, a 420-foot shot to center field, and Ramón Urías drew a walk. Urías belted a three-run homer yesterday to break a 3-3 tie.
The utility battle is intense.
Mountcastle’s two-run shot in the third came after Wilkerson replaced Stewart, the ball traveling 406 feet. It tied the game at 3-3.
“I’ve been letting some pretty good pitches go early in the count, so I thought I’d be more aggressive in that at-bat and took a good swing on a first-pitch heater,” he said.
Mountcastle has gone 1-for-8 and understands what he’s done wrong.
“Just swing at better pitches,” he said. “I’ve still got to get the timing down. It takes a little bit in spring, for me at least, to get my timing down and get locked in, and today was a little bit better and starting to feel a little more comfortable in the box.”
Said Hyde: “He’s been coming around it a little bit, some choppers to the left side, and that one he stayed through the baseball and a beautiful swing, a long home run to left field. So nice adjustment by Ryan. I just think he’s been a little bit off, but still taking good swings and he squared one up.”
Mountcastle said he’s still competing for a job and trying to produce. Maybe he’s a little more relaxed this spring, but he won’t assume that he’s on the team.
“I’m going to keep playing hard,” he said, “and hopefully I get the chance to be up there and play well.”
Paul Fry had another difficult outing with three runs allowed in the fifth on three hits and a walk. He’s surrendered six runs in two innings this spring.
Tanner Scott followed with a scoreless inning, allowing a hit and striking out one.
Left-hander Keegan Akin is working out as a starter, but he pitched in relief today because his turn fell on the same day as Harvey’s.
Akin walked Hernández and Grichuk in the third inning and Joe Panik singled to give the Jays a 4-3 lead. Jansen struck out to end the frame.
The inning drained Akin of 33 pitches, two more than Harvey’s outing, but he retired the side in order in the fourth on 10 pitches.
The Jays used a double and triple off Rule 5 pick Tyler Wells to score a run in the seventh.
Rough day to be a Rule 5.
“I thought Tyler Wells had nice velocity. I think on the board it was 95 mph. I thought he was throwing hard,” Hyde said.
“I think both guys had a little trouble with their secondary stuff. Sceroler was pitching behind in the count most of that inning, which is not easy to do, and gave up some hard contact. Just not enough strikes. You have to make quality strikes here and you have to pitch ahead in the count or they’re going to sit back and look for something to drive. I just thought both guys pitched behind in the count a little bit today, but the stuff was good.”
First baseman Tyler Nevin worked an 11-pitch walk in the fourth.