Notes: Harvey's oblique injury; camp cuts

March 12th, 2021

SARASOTA, Fla. -- To a man, the Orioles and came into camp with the same goal for the hard-throwing right-hander: To get through the spring healthy.

That did not happen. His arm, however, is fine.

The O's breathed a relative sigh of relief after learning Harvey left Friday’s 6-2 loss to the Phillies due to a left oblique injury, considering the reliever’s long history of arm trouble. The injury is still expected to sideline Harvey for several weeks. Harvey was not made available to comment on the situation after the game.

Upon entering for his fourth spring appearance, Harvey hopped off the mound in pain after delivering his first pitch, a ball to Mickey Moniak. Harvey exited after a brief consultation with manager Brandon Hyde and the Orioles' training staff.

“I heard him groan and double over, so I was hoping for the best, hoping it wasn’t an arm or something like that,” Hyde said. “I could tell by the way he was breathing it was something in his side.”

Harvey, the O’s first-round pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, missed parts of five Minor League seasons due to right elbow and right shoulder issues, and he was limited to 8 2/3 innings last year. The Orioles were easing him in this spring hoping he could remain on the mound enough to become a reliable option late in games, with Harvey profiling as a high-leverage and potent closing option when healthy.

Hyde had been cognizant to avoid pitching Harvey back-to-back days since his big league debut, and he spaced Harvey's outings out this spring -- three days between the first and second, six between the second and Friday -- with an eye toward avoiding injury. Harvey also took measures this offseason to improve his durability, doubling his normal amount of offseason throwing and altering his conditioning program.

“I was really just trying to build my arm up and get the body used to possibly taking the ball back-to-back days -- or two on, one off -- and come back for another,” Harvey said in February. “Really just trying to prepare for that and be ready for any role they throw at me.”

With Harvey sidelined, more high-leverage opportunities appear primed to slide to Tanner Scott and perhaps Cole Sulser, who struggled as the O’s part-time closer last season. Scott was projected to handle the lion’s share as it was, after breaking out with a 1.31 ERA and a 27 percent strikeout rate in 2020. The left-handed Scott was called upon slightly more against lefty hitters; now, Scott might see more righties with Harvey unavailable.

Hyde has not named an official closer since taking over as manager in 2019, and he is not expected to do so this spring.

“It opens the door for somebody to break [camp] with us,” he said. “We’ll give opportunity to guys, and somebody needs to step up.”

Roster moves

The Orioles optioned pitching prospects Mike Baumann, Zac Lowther, Alexander Wells and Isaac Mattson to Triple-A Norfolk as part of their second round of cuts after Friday’s game, ensuring all four hurlers added to the 40-man roster in November will begin 2021 in the Minors. The club reassigned right-hander Evan Phillips to Twin Lakes, leaving 60 players in big league camp.

The O's also received Rule 5 Draft selection Gray Fenter back from the Cubs on Friday, the team announced. Fenter, 25, had an excellent 2019 season at Class A Delmarva, going 8-2 with a 1.81 ERA. The right-hander will report to Twin Lakes and he will be considered a big league camp reserve. 

Getting into the swing of spring

The most promising development of Friday’s loss came from presumptive Opening Day starter John Means, who held the Phillies to one run over four innings in his best start of Grapefruit League play. Means threw 42 of his 60 pitches for strikes in the outing, becoming the first O’s starter to complete four innings this spring.

“That was probably the best I’ve felt,” Means said. “The fastball was definitely there. The fastball was really crisp today. But there is still some work to be done.”

Means joked he was “just pleased to get a strikeout” after whiffing leadoff batter Roman Quinn, given he’d allowed five runs without a strikeout over his first two Grapefruit League starts. Means punched out four on Friday, against two hits and one walk.

More from the trainer’s room

• Richie Martin, who is nearly fully recovered from right hamate surgery, could make his Grapefruit League debut as early as Sunday or Monday, according to Hyde. Martin sustained the injury in winter ball after missing the 2020 season with a fractured left wrist; the 26-year-old shortstop will have about two weeks to insert himself into the super utility competition brewing in O’s camp.

• Third baseman Rio Ruiz, who has been sidelined since Saturday due to illness, worked out on Friday with an eye toward returning to the O’s lineup on Monday, according to Hyde. The Orioles have slotted No. 26 prospect Rylan Bannon and utility candidate Ramón Urías at the hot corner in Ruiz’s absence, with Bannon using the opportunity to showcase his on-base skills. He’s gone just 1-for-9 in Grapefruit League play, but he's drawn six walks.

Up next

It’ll be a battle of left-handers when the Orioles travel to face the Blue Jays for Saturday’s matinee in Dunedin, Fla., with Baltimore starter Wade LeBlanc opposing Robbie Ray for Toronto. First pitch is slated for 1:07 p.m. ET.