Joe Harvey made his MLB debut on Wednesday night in Houston without much fanfare. It was his solid two innings of work out of the bullpen, however, that kept the Yankees in the game and allowed them to stage a comeback. But who is he, and where did this 27-year-old rookie reliever come from?
Harvey, a 6-foot-2 right-hander, grew up outside of Philadelphia and stayed in Pennsylvania to play college baseball in the Big East at the University of Pittsburgh. The Yankees selected him in the 19th round of the 2014 MLB Draft, and he’s been pitching in the system ever since. While you likely haven’t seen him on any top prospects lists, Harvey has excelled consistently throughout his minor league career and owns a career 1.72 ERA in 146 innings of work.
Unfortunately, injuries held him back from advancing quickly through the system over the past few years. Harvey missed much of the 2015 and 2016 seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery, but bounced back nicely in 18 appearances at High-A Tampa in 2017. He posted a 1.05 ERA in 25.2 innings with an encouraging 10.17 K/9. He impressed once more as a closer for Triple-A Scranton in 2018 and was added to the 40-man roster after the season to protect him in the Rule-5 draft.
Among Yankees pitchers, Harvey’s repertoire most closely resembles that of Tommy Kahnle, although Harvey throws a sinker instead of a changeup when he needs to work down in the zone. His fastball and sinker live in the mid-90s, while his slider averages about 86 mph. Harvey’s achilles heel has historically been his command, but he attacked Houston’s lineup in his debut on Wednesday, facing only two three-ball counts in his two innings of work.
Aaron Boone shared his impressions of Harvey with the media after Wednesday night’s game. “Really good fastball, power arm. The fastball plays, he pitches up in the zone and he is a bulldog,’’ Boone said.
Harvey will likely see his fair share of travel miles while the Yankees shuffle players around to combat their various injuries, but Boone said the Yankees believe he’s someone that can help them throughout the season if he’s called upon.
After his debut, Harvey expressed his excitement for any chance to contribute to the Yankees’ success.
“If they want me to go six innings I’ll go six innings, whatever helps the team,” Harvey told reporters after his debut. “I’m obviously the new guy just trying to do literally whatever they need me to do. If they need me to carry bats I’ll carry bats...I’m just trying to eat outs, get outs, whatever it is, I’ll do it.”
Sounds like the right attitude to have for a relief pitcher who now has a seat aboard the 2019 Scranton Shuttle.