Still, Harvey pitched fairly well, with a 7--2 record and a 2.79 ERA in 16 starts. After the season he dedicated himself to a strenuous weightlifting program. His goal was to establish himself as a top five player on the pre-2010 draft lists. He squatted 550 pounds. His weight climbed as high as 255 pounds. He grew so big and tight that his pitching suffered. His back tightened up. He would throw one pitch at 94 mph, and the next would come out at 85. Worst of all, he lost that beautiful arm swing. As a sophomore, he became a middle reliever with inconsistent stuff and a 5.40 ERA.
It took a full year for Harvey to break his bad habits and reestablish his value as a major league prospect. The arm swing returned, though it was not as consistent as it was before. "He wasn't throwing like he is now," says North Carolina coach Mike Fox. "He threw hard on occasion, but now the ball just jumps out of his hand."
On April 23, 2010, just two months before the draft, Fox gave Harvey the ball for a big start at Clemson. For three innings Harvey felt terrible, even weak. His legs trembled. "I didn't know what was going on," he says. He fought through the unsteadiness, and by the seventh inning he felt like he was just getting loose. The arm swing was there. The ball was jumping out of his hand.
After seven innings, with Harvey and the Tar Heels winning 5--2, Fox checked on his pitcher. Harvey looked Fox in the eye: "Don't you take me out of this game."
"That's enough," Fox said. "You've got 130 pitches."
"You're not taking me out of this game."
Fox backed down. He let Harvey go out for the eighth. "Well," Harvey explains with a smile, "I might have had a mean face on and some veins popping out."
Fox sent him back out for the ninth too. North Carolina won 5--3. Harvey struck out a career-high 15 batters and walked only one. It was the first complete game of his college career. He threw 157 pitches. The last one was clocked at 97 mph.
Harvey was transformed. "That was the game where I realized I could be pretty good," he says. "I always heard it from other people. Looking back on it, that's when the confidence started coming. I knew at that moment I was ready to move on."
Two months later the Mets took the junior with the power arm and an ideal ace's body with the seventh overall pick. Three pitchers were drafted ahead of him: Texas high schooler Jameson Taillon (by the Pirates) and college pitchers Drew Pomeranz (Indians) and Barret Loux (Diamondbacks). Harvey signed for $2.625 million. The first thing he bought was the black Escalade.