Cubs See Promise, Potential in Harris

A right-hander with three pitches in his repertoire, Ty'Relle Harris is enjoying a homecoming of sorts as the final weeks of the 2010 minor league season play out. The 23-year-old Harris was one of three pitching prospects the Cubs acquired from the Atlanta Braves in the August 18 trade of first baseman Derrek Lee.

Hailing from Fairfield, Calif., in the San Francisco Bay Area, Harris ended up in the SEC at the University of Tennessee after initially playing college ball at Sacramento City College and the University of Pacific in Northern California.

He was selected by Atlanta in the 19th round of the 2009 draft following a rocky, up-and-down season on Rocky Top, where he was 4-4 with a 6.18 ERA in 19 appearances (including seven starts) spanning 55 1/3 innings.

But Cubs Scouting Director Tim Wilken, who saw Harris pitch for the Volunteers that season, remembers that despite taking some bumps and bruises on the mound, the pitcher started to show some potential his senior season.

"I got to see him a couple of times, once against (College World Series champion) LSU when he beat them at (Baton Rouge)," Wilken said. "He was a starter then and he signed with the Braves and became a reliever. It just seems like he's got a little better every year, so we played on that with the idea that maybe there's still more in his tank."

Harris may prove the Cubs right. After pitching in 12 games a season ago between Class A Rome and short-season Class A Danville and going 2-0 with a 1.04 ERA, he began the 2010 season back at Rome and bolstered a 2.53 ERA and four saves in nine games, eventually earning a promotion to High-A Myrtle Beach.

Harris was promoted once more to Double-A Mississippi and was in the visitors' clubhouse at Smokies Park when he learned he'd been traded to the Cubs as part of the Lee trade. From there, he made the short trek across the field to the home clubhouse and suited up in a Smokies uniform for the first time.

He had posted a 0.90 ERA in his first 20 innings at Double-A between Mississippi and Tennessee before allowing seven runs in four innings against Birmingham in a start last Sunday.

Wilken said Harris currently possesses three "average pitches" in his repertoire.

"Decent changeup, 90 to 93 mph fastball, and he has shown us an average curveball here recently when he was with Mississippi," Wilken said.

Because of that, the Cubs are likely to experiment with Harris both in the bullpen and in the rotation. He made his Smokies debut on August 19 and threw two perfect innings in relief.

Five days later, he started and threw five shutout innings against West Tennessee, yielding three hits and striking out five batters without allowing a walk.

"They're going to leave everything open here," Wilken said. "You've seen what he's done relieving, so I think we're going to test the waters because he does have three average pitches."

At 23, Harris isn't overly young for the Southern League. But Wilken noted that he is still fairly young in terms of pitching and has competed well in a short time in pro ball. And he insists there is potential for more.

"There's a continuing theme that there seems to be a little more upside to his background," Wilken said. "He hasn't pitched a lot, so we were kind of going on those thoughts. He's extra large (6-foot-4, 235 pounds) and he's a durable lad because he's a good-sized man. He's only a year or so removed from college ball, so I don't think he's pitched that much to really get a bead on what's going on."

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