Hunter Harvey will pitch one more time for Class A Delmarva in 2017, on Sept. 4, then he's going to put the ball down and go home to North Carolina.
"I think it'll be mostly hanging out with my buddies and family. A lot of deer hunting," he said. "I'll be in the woods most of the time, I think."
Sounds simple, yet his path to this point has been anything but.
This is setting up to be Harvey's first fully healthy offseason since the one that followed the 2013 campaign, the year he was drafted 22nd overall. A strain in his right elbow limited him in 2014 and kept him out for all of 2015. Sports hernia surgery sidelined him until June in 2016, and even then, he only got five starts before suffering another right elbow injury, one that required Tommy John surgery last July.
He returned to the mound July 19 in the Gulf Coast League -- almost one year to the date after he went under the knife -- and has looked the part of a top prospect ever since.
The 22-year-old right-hander has yet to allow an earned run over seven starts -- three in the GCL, two with Class A Short Season Aberdeen and two with Delmarva. He's struck out 25, walked five and held opposing batters to a .143 average over 15 2/3 innings.
"It's been kinda surprising, to tell you the truth," he said of the results. "I wasn't expecting it at all. To go three years without pitching, it only mattered that I was there really. My command's still something I'm working on, and the off-speed is still coming along. But the results aren't something I think about a whole lot. ... The results are just extra. I thought if things went bad, I wasn't going to be worried. But to be finally pitching again and with some success, it's been fun."
Video: Aberdeen's Harvey gets out of jam
There are all sorts of caveats to Harvey's performance. He's been limited to three innings or 40-50 pitches per start, so he's not often had to see the same batter twice. He's also pitching at the three lowest stateside levels in the Orioles' system -- all of which he's thrown at before. His Aug. 22 start for Delmarva was the 19th of his career at Class A but his first since July 25, 2014. None of that matters to Harvey, however -- he just wanted to prove to himself that he could get through without worry.
"I was actually a little nervous," he said. "I threw a lot of BPs, but nothing compares to live hitting where the game actually counts. I definitely had some nerves. They're going away now, but it was always in the back of my head that things would usually start hurting bad. ... For the last few years, whenever I had thrown even just to play catch, I've always had a pain in my elbow or in my groin or something. Now, there's nothing. It feels awesome."
Despite the pitch limitations, Harvey, now ranked as the No. 7 prospect in the Baltimore system, said he's back to using his full arsenal, which includes a low-90s fastball, an impressive curveball and an average changeup. There's still plenty of room to grow. though. Back in February, Harvey talked to MiLB.com's podcast, "The Show Before the Show," about what it'd take for him to feel fully back.
"Really just sitting on the mound and getting the feel for my fastball again, because I feel like that's the most important pitch, being able to command the fastball," he said then. "That's the main thing, especially getting back up on the mound. It's going to be a little awkward because it's been so long. Just finding my rhythm and finding everything on the mound. Make sure everything's still smooth. I'd say once my mechanics and fastball command get back, that's probably about when [I'll feel back]."
More than six months later, he'll admit he's still not there. Case in point: his first pitch in his season debut in the GCL on July 19 at the Orioles' Spring Training complex in Sarasota.
"It was a ball," he said. "I think I threw it in the dirt, actually. But it felt good coming out of my hand."
That's the main thing both pitcher and parent club want at this stage, though the results don't hurt either.
"The organization, all they talked to me about before coming out here was trying to build my confidence," he said. "After three years of not throwing and watching something get hurt every time, that's all I cared about, too. There haven't been any setbacks or anything like that either, so that's huge. We're taking it easy right now, but it's definitely been good to have some confidence under me."
Harvey's confidence could only increase if he's able to get through his Labor Day outing with another zero in the runs column. But he still won't let himself get wrapped up in results, even at this stage. He will allow himself to think about one thing, though: deerhunting without restriction.
"They're giving me the last day of the year on the 4th, and then, they're shutting me down," he said. "It'll be a normal offseason, and I can't wait because I haven't had one of those after the last rough three years. I can't wait to be home."