A series of injuries already has cost Hunter Harvey more time away from baseball than he would've liked at just 22, but he's hoping it's all smooth sailing from this point on.
Making his fourth start after recovering from Tommy John surgery, the seventh-ranked Orioles prospect struck out three over two scoreless innings in Class A Short Season Aberdeen's 7-6 win over Mahoning Valley on Wednesday at Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium. He did not allow a hit but issued three walks.
"I'm feeling really good," he said. "The arm is feeling good, the body is good, so it's all good so far and looking up."
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The 2013 first-round pick took a little time to settle down in his first New York-Penn League start in more than a year as he walked three of the first four batters before striking out Indians No. 9 prospect Will Benson and Dillon Persinger to leave the bases loaded.
"I had a little bit of adrenaline there in the first inning, so I was a little wild," Harvey said. "But once I kind of got it back under control and started pitching again, my stuff was a little better."
Video: Aberdeen's Harvey gets out of jam
The right-hander tossed a 1-2-3 second and ended up throwing 21 of 35 pitches for strikes while keeping his ERA at 0.00 over seven innings across two levels this season.
"Right now, it's really just about feeling good," he said. "I feel like my command, velocity and all that stuff will come eventually, so I'm not too caught up in that. With more mound time I get, I feel like my mechanics will start working back to how they used to be. It's really just about getting confidence and believing in myself again. It's been injury after injury for the last three years, so just being back on the mound and being able to pitch again is a big confidence-booster."
Shut down in July 2014 after striking out 106 over 87 2/3 innings with Class A Delmarva, Harvey has been hampered by injuries ever since. He missed the rest of that season after receiving a platelet-rich plasma injection to treat elbow pain and sat out the entire 2015 campaign due to more elbow discomfort.
The North Carolina native underwent sports hernia surgery to begin the 2016 campaign before he was shut down again after five starts to treat a torn ligament in his pitching elbow.
"It kind of stung," Harvey said. "It was just another year of setback, really. Something had to be fixed and there's no way around it. But hopefully, this is it right here, so I get this out of the way and come back strong, work hard and get to where I need to be."
Harvey returned to the mound on July 19 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, where he made three starts and allowed six hits over five innings before joining Aberdeen.
"The first couple of bullpens, I kind of felt that fear of getting hurt again, but I haven't had any thought on that since," he said. "I'm just going out there competing with what I've got. I don't feel like I have everything back. My breaking ball isn't as sharp as it used to be and my changeup command is not as good. I feel like I really have to compete now and battle and kind of push myself an extra mile just trying to work with what I've got."
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Harvey is expected to make a few more starts this season, with at least one more coming with Aberdeen before he rejoins Delmarva.
"The Orioles have just been telling me they want me to be back in games and just build confidence," he said. "Being back on the field with a team under the lights, it's a little bit different because I haven't done it in a little over a year, so their biggest thing right now is just getting me back out there every six, seven days. I've got a couple of more starts and I'm not exactly sure where they are at, but wherever they are, I'm going to work my butt off and compete."
Scott Burke (1-1) picked up the win in relief, yielding one run on two hits and a walk with four strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings.
Josh Hart, T.J. Nichting and Irving Ortega each had two hits to pace the IronBirds offense, while Kirvin Moesquit drove in two runs.