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Harvey impresses in long-awaited MLB debut

Orioles' No. 15 prospect picks up 2 K's in relief as father, former big leaguer, looks on
@jessicacamerato
August 18, 2019

BOSTON -- Hunter Harvey was hoping the call would come, but he didn’t think it would happen in mid-August. Around 10:30 p.m. on Friday, the Orioles informed Harvey he was being promoted from Triple-A Norfolk for Saturday night’s game against the Red Sox. He didn’t think he’d be called up

BOSTON -- Hunter Harvey was hoping the call would come, but he didn’t think it would happen in mid-August.

Around 10:30 p.m. on Friday, the Orioles informed Harvey he was being promoted from Triple-A Norfolk for Saturday night’s game against the Red Sox. He didn’t think he’d be called up until September.

Box score

“When I got that phone call last night, I was kind of blown away,” Harvey said. “I was like, ‘This is crazy.’”

Harvey made his Major League debut in the bottom of the eighth inning and faced the middle of the Red Sox order in the Orioles’ 4-0 loss. Harvey retired J.D. Martinez on a groundout before issuing a walk to Andrew Benintendi and striking out Christian Vázquez and Mitch Moreland to end the scoreless inning.

“After I got that first pitch out of the way, it was just so much easier to breathe,” Harvey said.

Harvey threw 21 pitches, targeting 14 for strikes. His fastball reached 99.6 mph, according to Statcast. Orioles manager Brandon Hyde was impressed by Harvey’s six-pitch strikeout of Vazquez. Harvey will remember facing an All-Star in Martinez in his first at-bat.

“It’s obviously electric stuff. That was really fun to watch,” Hyde said, adding, “Hunter Harvey’s one of those guys where it’s going to be really fun to watch him come out of the bullpen. You can see a bright future there.”

Harvey’s debut was a long time coming for the 22nd overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft and a former Top 100 prospect. He was stalled by injury problems early in his Minor League career, as he missed all of '15 with an elbow ailment and ultimately underwent Tommy John surgery in '16. Harvey then dealt with a shoulder injury last season and threw just 32 1/3 innings, posting a 5.57 ERA for Double-A Bowie.

Given everything he has gone through, Harvey’s debut was a can’t-miss for those who have watched him strive to achieve this goal. Harvey’s father, former Major League pitcher Bryan Harvey, drove 12 hours through the middle of the night from North Carolina to Boston.

“That was like a snowball rolling down a hill,” Bryan said of his son’s past struggles. “After he got sent down out of Spring Training in '15, it was one thing after another. He’s battled through everything. Last year was a freak thing. There’s been a couple freak things in this. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong. He’s battled back. He never gave up, and he worked his butt off to get here. It’s happy now.”

Saturday was a special night for father and son, who had similarities between their debuts. Bryan made his first big league appearance on May 16, 1987, as a member of the Angels against none other than the Orioles. Like his son, Bryan also pitched in the final inning of the game, facing Cal Ripken, Eddie Murray, Fred Lynn and Ray Knight.

“My heart was about to beat out of my chest [watching Hunter], but it was really fun and it was awesome,” Bryan said.

This actually isn't Harvey's first appearance on the O's 25-man roster, as he was called up for a brief stint last season but didn't appear in a game.

“Oh, it’s amazing,” Harvey said of being healthy. “I’ve been trying to say that for the last couple of years. I thought I had it last year, and then something crazy happened.”

After recording a 6.12 ERA in his first 11 starts this year, Harvey was moved to the bullpen, where he has enjoyed better results. Over 15 relief outings leading up to Saturday's promotion, Harvey had a 2.81 ERA with 33 strikeouts and seven walks in 25 2/3 innings between Bowie and Norfolk.

“I was hoping that he could stay a starter, but he just struggled in that role,” Bryan said. “This year, he’d have a good outing, a bad outing. When he went to the bullpen after his first outing, he called and said, ‘Dad, my mind was so much freer tonight.’ I said, ‘That’s what we’ve been looking for all year.’ He said, ‘Well as a starter, I’m trying to figure out how to go seven, eight innings. Now, I just go throw it. It’s working.’”

Harvey, the club's No. 15 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, takes the roster spot of right-hander Tom Eshelman, who was optioned to Norfolk following Friday's contest.

“Everything that’s led me up to this point, all the injuries and all the negative stuff that I had in my past, just to be able to overcome that and finally reach my dream has been awesome,” Harvey said.

Jessica Camerato is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter @jessicacamerato.