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Orioles pitching prospect Hunter Harvey shut down with elbow discomfort

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Orioles pitching prospect Hunter Harvey hasn't thrown a competitive pitch since July 2014. He was shut down in instructional league with elbow pain. If he needs Tommy John surgery he'll have ended up with two lost years.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

When thoughts last turned to Orioles pitching prospect Hunter Harvey, they were optimistic ones. Harvey, though not officially named to the Arizona Fall League, would progress through some throwing in the fall instructional league in Sarasota before going to Arizona with other O's prospects, including catcher Chance Sisco.

All of that came crashing to a halt on Saturday afternoon, when manager Buck Showalter disclosed to Orioles reporters before Saturday's game against the Rays that Harvey had discomfort in his throwing elbow on his very first day of throwing. Next will come the standard consultation with Dr. James Andrews, whom the O's reporters said is out of the country at the moment.

Though it's not any certainty yet that surgery will be necessary, this seems to have Harvey on the road to Tommy John surgery, meaning he's effectively out of the picture until the beginning of the 2017 season, at which point the Orioles can begin nursing him back, maybe at Frederick, maybe elsewhere.

Harvey first had the issue of a flexor mass strain crop up in a start towards the end of last July. That injury diagnosis was the same originally given to prospect Dylan Bundy, who also ended up needing Tommy John surgery. Harvey never ended up throwing a competitive pitch in 2015 and so now, if he does end up needing the surgery that will put him on the shelf for a year, when he does get back into action it'll be with two full seasons lost.

That sucks for all involved parties. Should this point have been reached sooner to minimize the lost time? That may be the case, although it's awfully easy to rush someone else's elbow into surgery. I have no interest in doing that. I'm sure the Orioles and Harvey both were hoping things wouldn't reach the point of needing Tommy John, but for right now it looks like it's taken over a year to reach what may have been the inevitable outcome all along.