Harker Has No Problem Being Go-To Guy

Lakewood was enjoying having two quality closers in their bullpen, until a deal with Seattle that brought Jamie Moyer to Philly broke up their twosome. Now, the job has fallen squarely to Brett Harker, who has no trouble handling the duty.

Brett Harker is not the usual one-inning sort of closer. He's not a guy who just wants to come in to start an inning, with a nice, tidy save opportunity ahead of him. Eight of his 17 saves and his lone win on the season have come pitching more than one inning. In fact, two of his saves have come pitching three innings. In one of those outings, he was perfect over three innings and in the other, he faced one batter over the minimum.

Andrew Barb was Harker's closing partner with the Lakewood BlueClaws this season, until Barb exited for the Mariners' organization as part of the Jamie Moyer deal. At the time of the deal, Barb had 18 saves, compared to the 15 that Harker had put together at that point. Barb had a 2.23 ERA and Harker was at 3.05 on the season. While Barb's numbers were slightly better, the two seemed a perfect compliment and seemed to push each other toward success.

So, how would Harker respond to being the lone closer for Lakewood? No problem. Harker was happy about accepting the role and is looking forward to leading his team in the South Atlantic League playoffs. Since the trade, Harker has two saves and a 2.08 ERA for the second-half Northern Division Champions. His latest save came Monday night when he was called on to go an inning-and-a-third against Delmarva in the BlueClaws' 3-1 win.

Harker was the Phillies' fifth round pick in the 2005 Draft, opting out of his senior season at the College of Charleston to sign with the Phillies. His pro career started at Batavia last season and while his performance wasn't exactly what Harker and the Phillies had hoped for (1-2, 5.06), he still found himself with a promotion to Lakewood to start the season. He also found himself locked into the bullpen for the BlueClaws, after starting seven of the nine games that he pitched in for Batavia in 2005. The relief role wasn't completely new to Harker, who pitched in relief in 49 of the 78 college games that he pitched in for Charleston.

Even in college, Harker seemed to have closing as his goal. "I absolutely love it [closing] because every time I go to the yard, there's a chance to pitch. I like to joke with the starters that they pitch the boring innings and I get to come in when it's fun," Harker told the Greenville News.

Harker throws a solid fastball, but lives on his curve. Most scouts believe that his curve is as good as most of those thrown by major league pitchers and believe that Harker can move through the ranks at a pretty brisk pace. He has good velocity on his curve, but still gets an impressive break on the pitch, making some pretty good hitters look pretty bad at the plate.

While losing a closer is never easy, you get the feeling that the BlueClaws will get past the loss of Andrew Barb, thanks to the fact that they have Brett Harker ready to go when needed.

Minor League Notes:

Clearwater hitters had a nice night Monday against Fort Myers. Greg Golson hit for the cycle, starting his night with a leadoff homerun. Golson was on-base all five times he was at the plate Monday night, adding a hit-by-pitch to his cycle. The performance did wonders for Golson's average, which jumped 23 points to .271 on the season at Clearwater. He's played 34 games for the Threshers and has hit six homeruns.

Branden Florence doubled in the first inning, to break Clearwater's all-time mark for hits in a season. The old record was held by Rusty McNamara who had 154 hits in 1998. With two doubles on Monday night, Florence now has 156 hits this season for the Threshers.

The demise of the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Red Barons as a Phillies AAA affiliate appears complete after the International League gave its blessing for a new franchise in Allentown, Pennsylvania, which would replace the Ottawa Lynx franchise. The Phillies AAA affiliation will move to Ottawa for the 2007 season and then to Allentown when a new stadium is completed in 2008. Rumor has it that the Scranton franchise is for sale and could well wind up being an affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles starting next season.

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