A dynamite O's relief arm could be back soon

Harvey -- sidelined since July with elbow soreness -- rehabbing on road trip

August 26th, 2020

Of all the surprising steps the Orioles' bullpen has taken this year, maybe the most surprising part is that they’ve come without . That’s about to change.

Healed enough from the right elbow soreness that has delayed his season debut, Harvey traveled with the team to St. Petersburg this week in a rehab capacity. Neither he nor the Orioles will say exactly when the righty is expected to be activated, though the club has said for weeks that it hopes for it to happen before the end of August. That seems likely now, with Harvey back, at least physically, in the fold and pain-free.

“I’m feeling great right now,” Harvey said on a Zoom call Wednesday afternoon. “I’ve been feeling good for the last few weeks, and hopefully here soon I’ll be able to get back out there and start pitching in some big league games. Hopefully soon.”

Asked what hurdles he had to clear this week to return to the mound, Harvey said, “We’re going day by day and not really sure what’s going to come this week. We’ll just kind of see what happens as each day progresses.”

What’s clear is the elbow issue was not as serious as those that have plagued Harvey in the past, his injury history littered with elbow, shoulder and other ailments. That was ultimately what gave the Orioles pause when Harvey complained of elbow discomfort near the end of Summer Camp in the second half of July. Subsequent imaging showed no structural damage in the elbow, but the Orioles began the year with Harvey on the injured list and slow-played him at their alternate training site out of caution. He progressed to facing live hitters there before rejoining the team this week.

“When the pain first came about, I didn’t think it was anything too bad,” Harvey said. “It didn’t feel like it ever did before. Those couple years where I kept getting hurt, especially with the forearm, it hurt really bad. This didn’t really seem like anything serious at the end of the day."

Harvey added: “It was just kind of uncomfortable. I do think I could have pitched with it and everything would have been fine, nothing serious would have come from it. But we just wanted to play it safe.”

It was the same strategy that the Orioles took in shutting down Harvey two weeks before the end of last season, when he complained of elbow discomfort the team insisted was minor. By that point he’d already reached a career high in innings, and showed enough in an electric seven-game MLB sample to have the Orioles dreaming of a back-end bullpen role for him in 2020. He'd likely return this year in a setup capacity, at least to start.

The Orioles had baseball’s worst bullpen by ERA last season; it ranks ninth in the AL this year through 29 games. Much of that is via across-the-board improvement, from breakout candidates and to newcomers Travis Lakins Sr. and , to near-perfect (so far) , and others. Adding Harvey to that group feels opportune now, especially at a point in the year when sample size regressions may be in order and Givens and others could be on the move via trade. It could translate into a major boost.