A Dream Come True for Jeff Harris
"It was a complete surprise," Harris recalled. "I knew I was throwing the ball pretty well, but I had no idea that they were considering me to go up there and pitch. So it was the best surprise I've ever had."
In fact, when Harris was told the news by Rainiers manager Dan Rohn he thought he might me in for a demotion instead of a promotion.
"He called Felix and Campillo in first and told them they were going and then pulled me in last," Harris remembers. "He told me he had gotten the good ones out of the way and now he had to do the bad one. He told me to close the door. I didn't know what was going to happen, if I was going back to double-A. Then he said they traded for some guys and the organization wanted to send them here and see what they can do, and that he had to do something with me that he didn't want to do…. and then he said to be in Seattle at eight in the morning to catch a plane to Detroit because you're going to the big leagues."
The news was such a surprise that Harris didn't believe his manager at first.
"I said are you messing with me or something like that, and he said nope, congratulations, you're going to the big leagues, you deserve it," said Harris. "And I just looked around at everybody and everybody kind of smiled waiting for a reaction. And I started just shaking people's hands and thanking people."
And he did deserve it. Harris started out in the Rainiers bullpen, but moved to the starting rotation after a rash of injuries depleted Tacoma's pitching staff. Harris quickly became one of the most reliable arms in the rotation. With the Rainiers, Harris is 5-2 with a 2.78 ERA in 9 starts. Harris figured to return to the bullpen and fill in in relief for the M's, but an injury to Jorge Campillo changed those plans as Harris was thrust into service in his first game as a major leaguer.
"Of course I was nervous, just being there I was kind of in awe just being in the big leagues and looking around at all the guys on the teams and stuff," the 31-year-old explains. "It happened so fast that I didn't have time to think about what was going on. Before I knew it I was out there pitching in the big leagues and afterwards I had time to reflect and I was in awe that I had just had an opportunity."
Harris believes that the unexpected circumstances that surrounded his first appearance made it easier for him to perform well.
"I think so because I didn't have time to sit and think about it," Harris said. "It's a terrible way to get in the game when one of your buddies gets hurt, but it was good for me to get in there and not have time to worry about it. Or to sit there and not play and wonder when I was going to get to pitch. It just happened so fast."
In his three appearances with the Mariners, Harris was 0-1 with a 2.51 ERA in 14.1 innings of work. With his success in Seattle a September call-up seems likely, but Harris hasn't heard anything yet.
"They didn't tell me anything, they just said they liked what I did and that I made a good impression," Harris says. "They said to keep working hard and see what happens."
The University of San Francisco alum has the reputation of being one of the more knowledgeable pitchers on Tacoma's staff. His experience playing for his 11th team in his 11 year professional career makes him a resource for the younger Rainiers pitchers.
"We've got a lot of guys here that like to talk about pitching and stuff like that," said Harris. "I wouldn't say I work with anyone in particular. I play catch with Sean Green every day and we work on stuff and talk about ways to get different hitters out, changing speed on breaking balls, stuff like that. But we've got a lot of guys who have been in the big leagues. Raffy [pitching coach Rafael Chaves] is one of the hardest working people I've ever been around. We've got a good group of guys who work hard."
It is a time where the distractions of a possible return trip to the Mariners, or the letdown of an all too brief cup of coffee in the majors could catch up to Jeff Harris. But the 31-year-old right hander has just one thing on his mind.
"We're in first place now, the goal is to get to the playoffs and win a championship. Everybody's working towards that and that's my goal."
Even a minor league championship would be a great way to cap off a season where Jeff Harris has reached his lifelong goal - becoming a major league baseball player.
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