Harrison heading to Venezuela

Ben Harrison's career was hanging in the balance after a dissapointing 2007 campaign, but he responded in a big way this season, batting .284 with 18 home runs between the Double- and Triple-A levels. Lone Star Dugout has a Q&A session with the outfielder.

If any hitter in the Rangers organization went under the radar in 2008, it was outfielder Ben Harrison. The 26-year-old [Harrison turns 27 on September 18] appeared in 91 games with Double-A Frisco, batting .300 with 23 doubles and 17 home runs. He also showed a bit of speed by swiping 18 bases in 20 attempts.

Harrison struggled after a late-season promotion to Triple-A Oklahoma, hitting .221 with one home run in 26 games, but he picked up the pace in the playoffs. The outfielder was 9-for-27 [.333] with two home runs and eight walks in nine postseason contests.

Although Harrison had success in 42 games with Frisco in 2006, he suffered a shoulder injury while playing winterball in Venezuela the following winter. Harrison felt the injury's effects throughout a disappointing 2007 campaign, in which he batted .232 with 83 strikeouts in 69 games, most of which came with High-A Bakersfield.

One key to Harrison's rebound in 2008 was his health – it was the first time in two years that the Florida native had played an entire season injury-free. This fall and winter, Harrison will return to the site of his last major injury, as he will once again play winterball in Venezuela.

Lone Star Dugout recently chatted with the outfielder about his progress.

Jason Cole: You played really well in Frisco earlier this season, hitting .300 with quite a bit of power. How did you feel about your performance there?

Ben Harrison: I felt good about it. I felt like we had a good club and we were competitive every day. Coming out and not starting at the beginning of the year – missing about three weeks – I was happy to get a chance. I felt like I played pretty good.

Cole: You were promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma around the same time as a few of your Frisco teammates, including fellow outfielder Craig Gentry. Has that helped you in making the transition to Triple-A ball?

Harrison: Yeah, it's nice. Gentry is one of my good friends and it's nice to have him here with me. He's my roommate again. It definitely helps and makes it a little bit easier.

Cole: What are some of the main differences that you have noticed between the Double-A and Triple-A levels?

Harrison: The bullpens are better. There are more guys with velocity out of the bullpen. The pitchers have a better idea. They are better with their pitches. They're just smarter. Smarter, older, and they've been around. They have faced a lot of big league guys here.

Cole: Two years ago, you played pretty well in Frisco, but not quite this well. What has been the key to this big breakout season?

Harrison: I felt like I have been through a lot, so I just really wanted to make it the best and have fun with it. I had a really good hitting coach in [Scott] Coolbaugh. It was a good group of guys. I've really concentrated on just having fun with it and not putting pressure on myself.

Cole: You are a guy that has battled through some injuries for a lot of your career, including last season. Have you had any health issues this year?

Harrison: No, I feel good. Before, when I got hurt, I felt like it was kind of a fluke. I dove and hit my shoulder. But the year before that I didn't miss any games to injuries and I haven't missed any this year. My body feels good and I feel like I know how to take care of my body. Just hopefully nothing freakish happens.

Cole: What were you working on with your hitting coach once you got to Oklahoma?

Harrison: Just keeping it simple and not striding too far. I like to lunge at the ball. Really just keeping it simple and getting myself in a hitting position to be able to use my swing. If you don't prepare right and you lunge, you're not able to use your swing.

Cole: You drew a good amount of walks with Frisco this season. When you first got to Oklahoma, was it difficult to see pitches and be patient at first? Were you a little anxious up there?

Harrison: Right off the bat, I was a little too aggressive. Then I was like, ‘Alright, don't try to do too much.' I just started trying to be a little more patient. It's the same game, you've got to just not try and do too much and not think of it as a different level. It's just the same game.

Cole: Are you going to be playing anywhere this offseason?

Harrison: I'm going to Venezuela.

Cole: I know you got to play in Venezuela two years ago. How did you like that experience?

Harrison: I loved it there. Besides getting hurt, I had a good time there. I met a lot of good friends and I'm looking forward to going back this year.

Cole: Will you have any friends or teammates playing with you over there?

Harrison: Yeah, I'm going to Max Ramirez's team, La Guaira. It's also Carlos Subero's team. He's going to be the manager. He was my manager for a couple of years with the Rangers organization.

Cole: What, if anything, are you planning on working on in Venezuela?

Harrison: Just playing every day. Just to keep playing and prove to everyone that I'm healthy and that I can go through the grind and play every day.

Cole: I know you have been to Dominican instructs in the past and now you will be playing your second season in Venezuela. Being a guy from the U.S., what is it about you that allows you to go out of your comfort zone and play in foreign countries?

Harrison: You play with a lot of Latin players so it's nice to see where they come from and what they go through. I was luck enough to have my parents travel a lot and they've lived out of the country, so going into it they gave me a good outlook and told me that it was going to be a good experience rather than kind of dreading it.

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