ST. PETERSBURG -- The Orioles are entering a second straight season in which they know innings will be at a premium. And given what right-hander Matt Harvey provided for them last season, they felt a reunion could be beneficial.
That possibility became official prior to Friday’s Opening Day tilt against the Rays at Tropicana Field, when the Orioles announced they had agreed with Harvey, 33, on a Minor League deal. Harvey is expected to report to Baltimore's facilities in Sarasota, Fla., for extended spring camp, where he’ll build up before he and the O's set a more firm outlook.
“He did a lot to help us last year,” executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said Thursday, before Harvey’s deal became official. “I know his stat line wasn't the prettiest, but the innings that he threw, the luck that he had and -- I think most importantly for us -- the pro and the teammate that he was, helping us get through a very difficult season, was something that we wanted back. We feel like he might provide us depth and he might be able to help us, and he was in the process of kind of unlocking some things coming off of an injury.”
Last season, Harvey finished second on the Orioles to John Means with 127 2/3 innings, pitching to 6.27 ERA across 28 starts. Harvey battled right knee inflammation -- which he pitched through later in the season around two stints on the injured list -- and earned rave reviews for lifting Baltimore through a difficult time in the schedule.
Harvey also provided some bursts of nostalgic brilliance. Across four starts starting July 18, the right-hander built a career-best 21 2/3-inning scoreless streak. That ended in an Aug. 4 loss to the Yankees, when he sustained the knee injury that sidetracked him for the rest of the season.
It remains to be seen how Harvey will progress to start this season. There is lingering uncertainty and the possibility of a suspension after what was revealed during the Eric Kay trial around the death of former Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs.
“Obviously, it's a very unique situation right now with everything that he was involved in that came to light over the winter,” Elias said. “ … He's in the situation that he's in right now because of off-the-field things, but getting to know him last year, understanding his approach to what's going on, our point of view is that this was something that shouldn't prevent him from having another chance in this organization, especially with the way he conducted himself last year.”