If you were to judge Brandon Harmsen on the first part of this 2004 season, many would call you crazy in saying that he was a talented young pitcher. The young righthander struggled mightily in the first part of this season but after being sent to the bullpen for a time, he has turned it into a fantastic year since returning to the starter's role. Little by little, Harmsen is drawing the attention that he deserves. Well, for that matter, how can it be ignored? He leads the team in wins as he has an 8-0 record. He also leads Battle Creek starters with a 2.14 ERA. Not so easy to ignore that is it? With those statistics, he is arguably the ace of the staff.
So, could there be a promotion coming for this impressive 22 year old hurler? It seems like it could be coming soon. Well, before he gets shipped off to Tampa, PinstripesPlus wanted to catch up with Harmsen. Let's see what he has to say about his game, his future and a little bit about himself as a person as well.
PinstripesPlus: What have you changed to turn your season, and what do you have to do differently now as a starter than as a reliever?
Brandon Harmsen: Being in the bullpen made me refocus that I need to get after it more. I had kind of been slacking a little. I was not getting ahead of hitters, and was giving up 0-2 and 1-2 hits.
PP: What do you think you do differently that sets you apart from other pitchers?
BH: I'm not really any different than any other pitcher. I just throw it up there and try to force contact from the get go. You throw less pitches that way and hopefully they're quality pitches and hopefully the defense does the job.
PP: What pitches do you have in your repertoire and which do you go to at points in the count?
BH: I throw a lot of fastballs, probably a lot more than most pitchers. I throw a changeup and I like to throw a slider down and away from a righty. I throw two different fastballs, a two- and four-seamer.
PP: What one performance do you remember that has gotten you on the right track this season?
BH: Back in Kane County I went five innings after our starter threw only two innings. That kind of changed my season around. I was pretty focused that day and everything has lived up to that since then.
PP: The Cougars were hitting everything that series (note: KC won the first three games of that series by scores of 20-0, 10-0, and 7-1...Harmsen threw in the fourth game that BC won 1-0), you were the only guy to shut them down. What do you attribute to that?
BH: I was throwing strikes, getting ahead, and making pitches. That's the difference right there.
PP: What are your long term goals in your baseball career?
BH: Obviously to make it to the major leagues. I'm young yet, but I'd like to get there as soon as possible. The worst thing would be never to get there, to have to live with that the rest of my life.
PP: Do you have a personal goal of by what year you'd like to make it?
BH: I'm 22. I'd like to be up there by the time I'm 25 or 26. Anytime before or after that would be great. I just want to get there, really.
PP: What do you do to prepare for each one of your starts? Take me through what you do once you arrive to the ballpark on a day you're starting.
BH: We get here at least two hours before the game starts. I kind of gather my thoughts about getting ahead and throwing strikes. I really don't listen to music or anything like that. I just kind of relax.
PP: Any superstitions?
BH: Nothing really. I eat McDonald's or Burger King every morning I pitch. I started doing that. I don't know why.
PP: Any superstitions with your equipment?
BH: Yeah, my cleats have to be pretty clean. I clean them up for a good 10-15 minutes. That might be number one my list.
PP: Which other pitcher on the staff impresses you the most and why?
BH: There are a bunch that do. Elvys (Quezada), obviously, because he's already thrown a no-hitter. Abel Gomez is still young. He walks some guys maybe a little more than he should, but they're batting under .200 against him. The only chance for a hitter is if he walks you. He's going to be unbelievable. Chase (Wright) is starting to turn the corner. He's coming around and getting more confidence. He'll be great as well. (Tyler) Clippard is going to be good too. He's young. He's pretty raw, and if you look at his strikeout-to-walk ratio it's pretty impressive, especially for a 19-year-old. He's well beyond his years.
PP: What teammate or former teammate from this season would you least like to face at the plate?
PP: What would be some words of wisdom that you pass along to a young kid who wants to be a pitcher?
BH: No matter how bad you think your pitches are, you have to have confidence in them. If you have a great curveball but don't have confidence in it on some day, it's probably going to get hit. Whether the bases are loaded with a 3-2 count or there's nobody on, if you're thinking "I hope I don't walk this guy," more times than not you'll end up walking him. It's just confidence.
PP: Who else do you credit for your success this season?
BH: I give everybody credit. Teammates, Renko, and the other coaches.
PP: Do you have someone in the majors that you compare your stuff to?
BH: Stuff-wise, maybe Javy Vazquez of the Yankees. I don't throw exceptionally hard, 88-92. I throw a slider and he's got a curveball. Just go after hitters. You're not really going to fool anybody.
PP: You're from Michigan. Were you a big Tigers fan growing up?
BH: I was definitely big Tigers fan, and that was it.
PP: Any player you idolized?
BH: For pitchers it was Frank Tanana. For hitters probably Rob Deer and Cecil Fielder.
It is very easy to like a young man like Brandon Harmsen. Many of his attributes have a direct affect on what kind of pitcher he has become. Intelligence and level headedness can get you a long way on the pitching mound. Not to mention, this young arm has excellent stuff and a great knack for pitching. He has a lot to look forward as his promotion seems likely to come soon. There is a bright future for a pitcher of his caliber and hopefully it can come together for him. That was a look at Brandon Harmsen From the Mound.
PinstripesPlus.com would like to give out a very special thanks to Battle Creek Yankees play by play voice, Jeff Hem for his fine help to help make this interview possible. We would also like to thank Brandon Harmsen for his time and effort in answering these questions.