Friday, January 25, 2013

#296 Greg Harris - Cincinnati Reds

Maybe Topps felt badly about Greg Harris' rookie card.  On the '82 issue you could barely see his face. So perhaps they tried to make up for it by putting almost the same picture of the pitcher on this card twice.  The main photo shows Harris with a big grin or possibly in mid-sentence.  The inset looks like the photographer and Harris stood up and snapped one off from a different angle.
In case you are wondering, this is Greg A. Harris who is sometimes mixed up Greg W. Harris both pitchers with overlapping careers.
Baseball Card Database
PlayerGreg Harris was signed by the Mets as a free agent in 1976.  In the minors he was used as both a starter and reliever.  He made his debut with the Mets in May of '81 and started 14 of his 16 games.  The curveballer took his lumps winning just three games with a 4.43 ERA.
In February of '82 the Mets made a big move trading Harris, Alex Trevino, and Jim Kern to the Reds for George Foster.  Harris began the year in AAA and was called up in late May.  He struggled with a 4.83 ERA as a spot starter / mop up man in 91 frames.  He was banished to the minors for all but one inning in '83, placed on waivers in September and was claimed by the Expos at the end of the year.

Harris pitched for both the Expos and Padres in '84 having been traded to the latter for Al Newman in July.  His combined stats include a 2.48 ERA in 54 innings, mostly in relief.  Although hit hard in the NLCS, his postseason highlight was pitching 5.1 shutout relief innings in a losing effort against the Tigers in Game 3 of the World Series.  After the '84 season Harris' contract was sold to the Texas Rangers.  He pitched exclusively out of the pen the next two years and did well.  He appeared in 131 games, earned 31 saves, with ERAs of 2.47 and 2.83 while racking up 224 innings pitched.

The 1987 season was a big let down as Harris blew a couple of games early in the year and was buried in the back of the pen.  He emerged in June as a starter but fared no better.  He ended the year with a 5-10 record and 4.83 ERA in 141 innings.  He was signed in the offseason by the Indians but was cut in spring training and picked up by the Phillies.  Harris was able to regain his form and provided valuable middle relief for the Phils with a 2.36 ERA in 107 innings.

Harris seemed to be pitching fairly well for the Phillies in '89, (3.58 ERA, .234 OBA) when he was placed on waivers and picked up by the Red Sox.  He did well for Boston in middle relief and ended the year with a combined 3.31 ERA in 103 innings.  The next year began as usual with Harris in middle relief for the first few weeks before injuries to the starting staff forced Harris to the rotation. He made 30 starts and while he didn't blow anyone away he didn't embarrass himself either finishing with a 4.00 ERA.  He set career bests with 13 wins and 184 innings with both marks third best on the staff behind Roger Clemens and Mike Boddicker.  Harris took the loss in Game 2 of the ALCS when he entered a tie game in the 7th inning and allowed the go ahead run, retiring just one of four A's batter he faced.

Harris jockeyed back and forth from the rotation to the pen as needed in '91 and pitched moderately well with a 3.84 ERA in 174 innings. He was trusted with a set up job in the BoSox pen in '92 and responded with a 2.51 ERA in 107 innings. The rubber-armed Harris pitched an AL best 80 games in '93 with 8 saves while holding batters to a .232 average.

The wheels came off for Harris in '94 as he was released after getting pummeled in June and July.  The Yankees gave him three games before they cut him loose.  He latched on with Montreal in '95 and performed well with a 2.61 ERA 48.1 innings.  After the season, Harris turned 40 and retired with a 74-90 record, 54 saves, 3.69 ERA, 112 ERA+, 1467 innings in 15 years of major league action.

  Baseball Card Database

Flipside:  Although Harris was signed by the Mets as a free-agent, he had been drafted three times earlier, twice by the Mets, but decided to stay in school.

Oddball:  Always an ambidextrous fellow, Harris longed for years to turn around and throw from the port side something that made Boston GM Lou Gorman nervous. In fact Gorman forbade it to which Harris responded by wearing a special glove that could be worn on either hand, giving hints that he could easily switch mid-game. Harris never got to do it in Boston but finally "switch-pitched" for Montreal in the second to last game of his career on 9/28/1995 against the Reds.  With the Expos down 9-3 in the top of the 9th, he got Reggie Sanders to ground out to short to start the inning.  Harris then turned southpaw and walked Hal Morris. He stayed with it and got Eddie Taubensee to ground out weakly.  He reverted to the right side and retired Bret Boone to end the inning.

Harris so far is the only modern pitcher to pull off switch pitching in the majors, although since then there have been others to do it in college and minor league ball.  It must be catching on though as there is an entire blog devoted to it.  In fact Little League instituted a rule mandating pitchers must declare what hand they will throw with to the batter. Is this the new rage or just a fad?

History: Harris was a versatile pitcher who is good to have on the team.  He could fill any role from starter to short relief but was best suited in the middle-relief role.  Maybe someday we will see a right-handed starter who works as a lefty reliever on his off days. Or perhaps a reliever capable of always having a platoon advantage.  Yankee switch-pitching farmhand Pat Venditte has had success and received some publicity for his talents.  But he is already 27 years old and hasn't made it to the show yet. Will he get a chance?

1 comment:

  1. ah, the switch-pitch! perhaps the ONLY bright spot of the Expos' miserable post-firesale season... I remember it well