Matt Harvey has made the Orioles. The club selected Harvey’s contract Thursday, bringing clarity to their rotation picture and securing the veteran right-hander’s place on the Opening Day roster.
Harvey, who will turn 32 on Saturday, signed a Minor League deal with Baltimore to compete for a rotation job after bouncing between four organizations over the past three seasons. A 2013 All-Star with the Mets, Harvey produced a 11.57 ERA in seven appearances for Kansas City in 2020. He will earn $1 million in 2021.
“When you start an All-Star Game and then you pitch in the World Series, I think the last thing you ever think of is how excited you'll be to make a team again,” Harvey said. “It was a good, early birthday present, and it's probably one of the best I've had.”
This spring, Harvey arrived in Orioles camp after training this winter at an analytics-driven pitching lab in New Jersey, with an eye toward reviving his career. He then pitched to a 5.40 ERA across three Grapefruit League starts, with his fastball touching 95 mph at times but more consistently living in the 90-94 range. His path to the Opening Day rotation became clearer when Félix Hernández, another former All-Star in camp on a Minor League deal, was sidelined with right elbow discomfort last week.
Harvey was one of the game’s premier starters from 2012-15 with the Mets, going 25-18 with a 2.53 ERA, before injuries contributed to a severe decline. All told, he is 44-52 with a 4.14 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP across parts of eight seasons with the Mets, Reds, Royals and Angels. He has spoken repeatedly this spring about reclaiming his old form.
“I’m not trying to be as good as I was,” Harvey said. “I’m trying to be better.”
Even if he never comes close to that, Harvey can be useful to the rebuilding O’s. He’s scheduled to make his final spring start Sunday, lining him up behind John Means in the rotation’s second slot, ahead of Dean Kremer, Keegan Akin and potentially Jorge López. The exact arrangement is less important than the innings Harvey can provide during a year the O’s will strictly manage workloads for Kremer, Akin and other young pitchers, and experiment with several non-traditional pitching strategies. If Harvey emerges as a trade chip come July, even better.
Harvey’s Minor League contract included a fairly standard opt-out Wednesday that facilitated the official move, prompting manager Brandon Hyde to call him into his office Thursday morning. There, Hyde and general manager Mike Elias pretended “they were upset with me, possibly telling me bad news,” according to Harvey. The joke was on him.
“Then,” Harvey said, "they switched their faces around.”
He added: “I'm super-excited. I’m very thankful that they saw the work I put in and felt like it was good enough to continue to get better and help the team out any way I can.”