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In first major league camp, Orioles' Hunter Harvey 'has the chance to be really special'

SARASOTA, FLA. — Hunter Harvey's first throwing sessions of spring training have drawn a crowd to the new bullpen area of the Ed Smith Stadium complex, with executives, staff and players all gathering for a glimpse of the Orioles' consensus No. 2 prospect.

For Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman, it looks all too familiar — the long lanky body and a delivery full of arms and legs. The catcher's mitt makes an uncommon pop when Harvey throws a fastball, but Tillman sees a talented 20-year-old right-hander who is just beginning to tap his potential.

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"When I watch him, it's like watching myself four years ago," Tillman said, with a smile. "It's weird, it really is. It's kind of like a baby deer, getting the results but not understanding the whole process of it. It's impressive how good he is and the results he's getting but how much better he can be in his delivery.

"He's so raw, but he's so good at the same time. That's impressive because it shows what kind of athlete it is. I think if he keeps his head on straight and does the right things, he has the chance to be really special."

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This will be Harvey's second full professional season — and this is his first major league camp — but the Orioles' first-round pick in 2013 already has shown that he's far more advanced than most pitchers his age, and many predict he could ascend through the organization's minor league system rapidly.

That's partially because of where Harvey has come from. He is the son of former major league pitcher Bryan Harvey, who pitched nine years with the California Angels and the Florida Marlins and was one of the game's best closers at that time. And Hunter Harvey's brother, Kris, was a second-round pick by the Marlins in 2005 and played in the minor leagues for eight years.

Still, Hunter Harvey had to work to get to this point, his father said.

"Obviously, he was a No. 1 pick and that's something we're all proud of," Bryan Harvey said. "But I keep telling him and my other son, I'm the only one who's played in the big leagues, so until y'all get past that, y'all just keep quiet and do what you're supposed to do.

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"I've never let him think he's better than anybody else, and I've always made him work hard and respect his teammates no matter where he was at and pull for them. I think some of that rubbed off on him. That's how he carries himself."

Before Hunter left for Sarasota, his father gave him some advice on his first major league camp: Listen often and stay quiet.

"He said, 'Act like you belong, just don't do anything dumb,' " Hunter Harvey said. "You're still a minor leaguer. I got invited here, so just stay in your lane and don't get too cocky. Don't let it get to your head. … You're in big league camp. You can't go out there and just blow it out. You've got to do what you've got to do and don't hurt yourself and ease into it. You've got to act like you belong there."

Harvey had the benefit of being exposed to the game early — especially the sometimes humbling experience of the minor leagues. He saw his brother, who was drafted as an outfielder, be converted to a pitcher before shoulder injuries ended his career. When Bryan was a minor league pitching coach — first with Low-A Asheville and later with Double-A Tulsa — Hunter would stay with his father for a month.

"He got to feel what it was like to ride the bus for 12 hours," Bryan Harvey said. "He's very fortunate because he got to see that and experience that before he got to it. Some people don't handle it very well."

There's no doubt Harvey has the tools to be great. His father knew that when he hit 97 mph on the radar gun before his senior year in high school. His curveball has the bite to be a legitimate second pitch. He's working on developing his changeup, and has already gleaned advice from Tillman and right-hander Kevin Gausman, two Orioles pitchers who have utilized the off-speed pitch effectively.

Three weeks ago, before Harvey came to major league camp, he tinkered with a split-finger fastball, the pitch that made his father so dominant. He flicked a couple off during his second spring bullpen session.

"That was new," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of the splitter. "I wonder where that came from. … [He had] good presentation. A lot of guys come in here at 20 years old trying to throw it through the backstop. He presents a real confident front. When you tell him, 'Take it easy, you're not going to make this club,' they do things to make you think about it. … He's not out of place. I think that's a good compliment."

Harvey obviously still has a lot to learn. In his first full professional season, he was 7-5 with a 3.18 ERA in 87 2/3 innings at Low-A Delmarva before the Orioles shut him down in late July with discomfort in his throwing elbow.

Harvey received a clean bill of health in mid-December after a clean MRI and resumed throwing then, but he didn't get on a mound until a month later, which was an adjustment, especially since he had never missed time because of an injury in his career.

"End of January, I threw all my pitches, slowly getting up to it," Harvey said. "It felt kind of weird throwing because it had been five months since I had thrown, but it felt good to get back. … I feel great. I haven't had any pain since they shut me down, so everything's been going good."

The Orioles have been careful with all of their talented young pitchers, holding highly-touted right-handers like Gausman and top prospect Dylan Bundy to strict innings and pitch limits. Harvey will be treated with equal care.

Orioles player development director Brian Graham said those limits will be decided by a group that consists of himself, executive vice president Dan Duquette, Showalter, major league pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti.

Typically, pitchers in this situation don't add more than 20 to 30 innings per year in their progressions through the minors, so Harvey likely will be slotted for around 110 to 120 innings. He's likely to open the season at High-A Frederick.

Harvey said the limitations have been difficult, but he understands the bigger plan — that the Orioles want to ensure that he will be successful when he arrives in the major leagues.

"It's kind of tough because I want to pitch more and get in there and keep going, but at the same time, I know why they're doing it," Harvey said. "It's a good thing, but hopefully it won't be too much longer until I can start pitching as much as I can. … It's a long season, that's one thing I've learned."

One thing is for sure. Harvey has a good group around him, from his baseball-rooted family to an optimistic but cautious organization, to the players who see him helping in the major leagues sooner rather than later.

"If the good Lord lets him stay healthy, I think he'll pitch in the big leagues," Bryan Harvey said. "All the guys in Triple-A and Double-A and most of the guys in [Single-]A ball can pitch in the big leagues, but it how you can handle it mentally. That's what we spend a lot of time talking about. You've got to be able to separate the good and the bad. … He's been able to separate it pretty well mentally.

"For me, that's the key."

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