Matt Harvey took the mound for the Orioles Friday for the first time since signing a minor league contract with the club back in February. It did not go well. The 31-year-old right-hander allowed three runs on four hits, walked none and struck out none in two innings of work, tossing 31 total pitches between the two frames, earning himself a 13.50 ERA.
Harvey’s standard box score line isn’t great, but the deeper metrics (the fuller story) are worse still. Leaning primarily on his 4-seamer (19/31) Harvey was hit hard, giving up an average exit velocity of 93.1 to Toronto hitters. His pitches were lifeless and non-deceptive. Of the 31 pitches tossed, Harvey managed to induce one swing and miss (6% Whiff) and four called strikes (16% CSW). Opposing batters were able to put 10 balls into play (32% BIP) while fouling off six. Toronto batters maintained the advantage both mentally and physically.
The information here is not an end-all indictment of Harvey’s upcoming season or of the Orioles’ decision to take on the low risk/any reward experiment with him. It’s simply information. Things did not go well in the debut. And yes, the optimist can use the annual disclaimer of “it’s just spring training” as a suggestion that Harvey should improve with more work. But understand that players aren’t stepping into spring cold anymore. Most pitchers have been getting work for some time now and whenever they step on the mound they fully intend to pitch well.
So any improvements we’re hoping for aren’t going to come from effort but from ability, a commodity known to fade with age.