Nearly two full years after originally being shut down with right elbow discomfort, Orioles pitching prospect Hunter Harvey will undergo Tommy John surgery on Tuesday.
The 21-year-old exited his minor-league rehab start with short-season Single-A Aberdeen on Saturday after just 1 1/3 innings due to discomfort in his right flexor mass, the original diagnosis he received in late July of 2014, his first full professional season. The ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction — which typically requires about a year to recover — will be performed by Dr. Donald D’Alessandro in Charlotte, N.C. on Tuesday.
Despite pitching to a 3.18 ERA in 87 2/3 innings with Single-A Delmarva in 2014 to establish himself as one of the top 100 prospects in baseball, Harvey has experienced an array of health problems that have threatened to derail a promising career. In addition to the recurring forearm and elbow discomfort preceding Tuesday’s surgery, the 2013 first-round pick has lost extensive time due to a broken fibula in 2015 and sports hernia surgery earlier this season, factors that likely made it more difficult to assess how Harvey’s elbow was responding to the conservative treatment used in hopes of him avoiding surgery.
Harvey did not pitch last season and had made only five combined starts between the Gulf Coast League and Aberdeen in 2016. He has posted a 2.79 ERA with 157 strikeouts in 125 2/3 career innings in the minor leagues.
While many pitchers have made successful recoveries from Tommy John surgery, this is clearly disheartening news for the Orioles, whose current starting rotation ranks among the worst in the majors. With Dylan Bundy now in the majors — and three years removed from the same procedure — Harvey was considered the top prospect in a Baltimore system lacking starting pitching depth across the board.
However, Bundy’s mere presence in the current starting rotation now is a good reminder that Harvey is far too young to write off as a potential key cog of the future.