Harris' baseball career takes another turn

Just a few weeks away from returning to Navy duty from St. Louis Cardinals extended spring training camp, pitcher Mitch Harris hit a physical roadblock Saturday.

United States Navy officer/St. Louis Cardinals minor league pitcher Mitch Harris is one of the most intriguing players in extended spring training camp. His up-and-down baseball career, which plays second fiddle to his commitment to military service, took another turn on Field 1 on Saturday morning at the Cardinals complex in Jupiter, Florida.

The good fortune I felt in being able to watch Harris throw for the White team against the Mets quickly turned to disappointment for the right-hander. After a double and an out that moved the runner to third, Harris threw a couple of pitches high and seemed to shake his arm after the last one.

Trainer accompanies Harris off the field
Coaches and trainers headed to the mound and after a brief discussion, the decision was made to end his day. A visibly-frustrated Harris walked off the mound and down the left-field line toward the Cardinals clubhouse.

"His shoulder just got tight on him," a Cardinals coach said. "We were not going to let him keep throwing."

Though the injury did not appear serious, Harris may not be back in action any time soon. Knowing just a few weeks remain in camp before his return to duty certainly must have added to his unhappiness.

"We'll probably have to shut him down for awhile," the coach concluded.

When the right-hander reported to extended spring training, he was throwing 82-83 mph, but had worked his velocity back up to 87-89 before the incident.

The Cardinals sound enthused that Harris will be having a land assignment this year rather than being deployed ship-side. He has been assigned to Virginia Beach, he told me, and will report after his time in camp concludes later this month.

Better access to land-based facilities give him a far better chance to be able to carry out the Cardinals' recommended plan to stay in baseball shape.

Because of his age, currently 26, when he does report and is able to play in regular-season ball, the Cardinals say they will look to move Harris more aggressively than they would with younger pitchers.

Speaking of keeping on the plan, there is a decent chance the Cardinals could restore their fall instructional league program in 2012. It is not a firm decision yet, but the fact that the proposal is still on the table is encouraging in itself.

This camp may not help all players, but for someone like Harris, it could be invaluable. If not in instructs, the Cardinals will try to find a way for Harris to pitch somewhere this winter - if he is available to do so with permission of the Navy and health willing.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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