Hard-throwing reliever Hunter Harvey is experiencing elbow discomfort that makes him likely to begin the season on the injured list, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said Wednesday. The issue makes Harvey’s chances of breaking with the team “extremely slim,” according to Hyde.
“It’s muscular in the elbow area,” Hyde said. “We are not concerned about it at all, it’s just a little tight. We are being conservative with him and monitoring him.”
In that sense, the situation is similar to the way the Orioles are handling ace lefty John Means, who will miss Opening Day due to arm fatigue but is expected to rejoin the team shortly. The injury histories of the two pitchers differ significantly, though.
The club’s first-round pick in 2013 and now its No. 12 prospect per MLB Pipeline, Harvey missed large chunks of 2015-18 in the Minors with arm trouble, including the entire '15 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He stayed healthy for most of 2019, reaching the Majors in August as a reliever and pitching to a 1.42 ERA in seven largely electric appearances. The Orioles shut him down in late September as a precaution after Harvey complained of shoulder soreness.
This year, the 25-year-old was in line for a back-end bullpen role, potentially as the team’s future closer. He was an active participant in intrasquad games during Summer Camp, but was then held out of the club’s three exhibitions. Hyde revealed Monday that Harvey was sidelined by general soreness, describing it as similar to Means’ arm fatigue.
“It's something where he is progressing, feeling better and hopefully is with us soon,” Hyde said.
Until then, the Orioles can free up a roster spot by placing Harvey on the 10-day injured list, backdating the stint to Monday. That would make him eligible to return on Thursday, July 30, seven games into the 60-game season.
The Orioles are expected to carry 11 relievers on their initial 30-man roster, of which eight are seemingly assured spots: Mychal Givens, Richard Bleier, Shawn Armstrong, Miguel Castro, Paul Fry, Tanner Scott, Cody Carroll and Kohl Stewart. That leaves four pitchers left for the final three, including Harvey’s vacated spot: righties Travis Lakins, Evan Phillips, David Hess and Cole Sulser.
When Means returns, Tommy Milone, who is starting on Opening Day, will likely head to the back end of the rotation. That could happen sooner rather than later. Hyde said Wednesday that Means might return as early as next week for one of the Orioles’ four games vs. Miami. The Orioles and Marlins play a two-game series in South Florida on Monday and Tuesday and a two-game set in Baltimore on July 29-30.
Means has not been made available to discuss his situation since word of his injury became public earlier this week.
As for the rest of the rotation, Hyde confirmed probables that have been lined up for some time, officially announcing Alex Cobb and Wade LeBlanc as the starters for the season’s second and third games, respectively, in Boston. Cobb will start Saturday opposite veteran lefty Martín Pérez; LeBlanc will get the ball Sunday against right-hander Ryan Weber.
The O’s have not publicly committed to anything past that, but Asher Wojciechowski is expected to slot in as the fourth starter. He threw a simulated game Wednesday at Oriole Park, which would line the righty up to start as early as Monday in Miami.