Orioles reliever Shawn Armstrong began the 2021 season on the paternity list, was transferred to the injured list in a procedural move caused by the intake process and spent two months unable to regain his effectiveness out of the bullpen.
The next move for Armstrong could be joining a new organization.
The Orioles designated Armstrong for assignment this afternoon while also recalling reliever Travis Lakins Sr. from Triple-A Norfolk, and claiming infielder Domingo Leyba on waivers from the Diamondbacks and optioning him to the Tides.
Armstrong was one of the club’s most dependable relievers in 2020, allowing three earned runs (six total) in 15 innings and stranding 11 of 13 inherited runners. He appeared in 20 games this season and posted an 8.55 ERA and 1.900 WHIP in 20 innings, and tied his career high with 4.5 walks per nine innings.
In his final game on Wednesday, Armstrong retired the Twins in order in the seventh inning with two strikeouts and was charged with two runs in the eighth.
“I just thought he got off to kind of an odd start,” manager Brandon Hyde said in his Zoom call. “He missed the opening series, spring training got shut down a little early for him and just never got it going. I thought his last appearance was encouraging. I thought he had a real good seventh inning the other night. But he just threw too many balls in the middle part of the plate that hurt him.
“That was a tough conversation today, because he’s somebody who’s been here for a few ears, pitched a lot of innings for us and I hope whatever is best for Armie, I hope that happens. Obviously, love to keep him in the organization if possible, but whatever’s best for him.”
Harvey will be the 39th player used by the Orioles this season. He’s been on the 60-day IL with a strained oblique, an injury sustained after throwing one pitch in an exhibition game against the Phillies in Sarasota, Fla.
“Great to have Hunter back,” Hyde said. “Disappointing injury there in spring training. And he’s excited and ready to go. I’m going to use him like a regular piece in the bullpen. It’s been a tough kind of few years for him being able to try to stay healthy, et cetera. But I want to see what this guy has. I want to see if he can pitch in big spots. He’s going to pitch in big spots. Really love the arm, like the makeup and I’d like to find out about him.”
The injuries keep interrupting the lessons. Elbow, shoulder, shin, oblique. The result has been 17 innings in 15 major league games since the Orioles made Harvey the 22nd overall pick in 2013.
“It was tough,” he said today in his Zoom call. “Like I’ve been saying, going into spring, it’s the best my arm had felt and best my body had been feeling. The ball just felt like it was coming out of hand good and another freak accident happened, and there’s not a whole lot you can do. I never really saw it coming. It was just kind of out of nowhere. Is what it is. You’ve just got to go with it.
“It was kind of frustrating to the fact that I did a lot more this offseason to build my arm up and build my body up to be able to support my arm and making it go fast, and then to have a freak thing like an oblique go out, which I’ve never had a problem with in the past, it was kind of frustrating to have to deal with that. I don’t ever want to have an oblique thing again. It was by far one of the worst things I’ve ever had.”
Support and understanding are nearby with father Bryan, a former major league closer, and brother Kris, a former minor league pitcher.
“Dad, actually he had a lot of injuries when he played, too, and oblique was one of his. My brother actually had the same thing happen to him, so I’m lucky enough to have guys like that to be able to talk to and be able to bounce things off, because they know where I’m at mentally in a time like that, especially with my past,” Harvey said.
“So just being able to talk with anybody, especially somebody that’s gone through it, it really helps you ease your mind and be able to push through it and get back to being healthy.”
Harvey was used for multiple innings in three of his four appearances on his rehab assignment with Norfolk.
“I just think it was important from the standpoint of how he’s going to recover, how are you going to recover from one-plus,” Hyde said. “And I don’t know if I’m going to use him for a one-plus. But I think that was important for all of us just to see what he felt like the next day.
“That’s a normal progression for a pitcher anyway, even a one-inning guy. When they go through their throwing progression, as well as their mound work, that you stretch them a little bit at the end there just to see what it’s like the next day and the day after. And Hunter recovered great, he feels good and he’s ready to pitch tonight.”
Harvey exceeded one inning twice in his 10 appearances last summer. He went back-to-back on Sept. 26-27 to close the season.
“We talked a little bit today, not really about a role, but we’re taking the training wheels off,” Harvey said. “We’re here to pitch, we’re here to play. I’m healthy. I’m here to help the team win and do what I can to contribute. It’s really just taking the training wheels off and letting me be a big-league pitcher.
“They’ve just been cautious with me in the past with how my arm has been and all the injuries I’ve had. But like Hyde said, I’m not getting any younger. There’s no point in waiting around. We’ve got to go. It’s time to go. There’s just not enough time to keep babying it every year.”
Clearance to ramp up was withheld until the Orioles were certain that Harvey was out of the danger zone. Patience was required. It’s been running in short supply.
“That was tough,” he said. “I had a lot of guys tell me after I hurt my oblique, I bet every pitcher came up to me at one point saying whenever you start feeling good, please take another week, just to make sure, because they know. With my past and being injured, I hate being on the DL, I hate doing all that, so as soon as I felt good I was ready to go, but I remembered what a lot of those guys said and I tried to make sure I was 100 percent for about a week before I really started turning it up. But luckily, it’s all been good. I never had any setbacks, so it’s all good now.
“It (rehab assignment) was good, just felt like it took forever, as always coming back from any injury. But it felt good. It felt like it took me three or four outings to start feeling good again and the last outing I had in Durham, I think it’s really probably the best I’ve felt probably since 2019. The ball just felt like it was coming out of my hand really good again and the off-speed was spinning good and it felt really good.”
Outfielder Austin Hays is expected to rejoin the active roster late next week after a rehab assignment to test his left hamstring.
Harvey and Hays are valuable members of the club when healthy, but they’ve experienced numerous setbacks over the years. Hays has gone on the IL twice this season and the lineup and outfield defense suffer.
“It’s tough to judge them fully unless they’re out there,” Hyde said.
“In Hunter’s case, he’s just kind of had some bad luck in the last few years and not been able to get valuable major league experience in the bullpen. I’m hoping it starts tonight. It starts tonight with us watching him pitch in the backend of a bullpen for a long time. And understanding how to stay healthy, understanding (that), you know, he needs to face major league hitters. That’s the bottom line. And it’s just like Austin Hays needs to face major league pitching. You need to continue to watch that.
“So injuries are part of the game, some guys get hurt a little bit earlier in their career, kind of slows down their development, but you hope at some point both these guys will turn the corner and be able to be out there regularly.”
Hyde didn’t specify why infielder Pat Valaika went on the bereavement list, with the club recalling Ramón Urías from Norfolk.
Players must stay on the list for a minimum of three days and no more than seven.
Rule 5 pick Mac Sceroler remains on his injury rehab assignment with Norfolk and there’s no reason to rush him back to the major league roster.
Sceroler started last night and allowed four runs and six hits in 2 2/3 innings. He walked none and struck out seven.
Alexander Wells, who missed spring training with another oblique injury, tossed four scoreless innings with one hit, no walks and five strikeouts. A huge step forward as he attempts to make his major league debut this summer.
The Tides won 12-4 in Durham, but the game was stopped and marked as official in the eighth after Brett Cumberland’s line drive struck Bulls pitcher Tyler Zombro on the head. Zombro was placed on a stretcher, taken off the field and transported to Duke University Hospital.
The Rays issued a statement today saying that Zombro remains under the care of doctors and nurses at the hospital and “the updates overnight have been positive and he remains in stable condition.”
Tonight’s game was postponed.
Zombro pitched at George Mason University.