Harrison preparing for relief role
Matt Harrison made his first step toward returning to the Texas Rangers on Monday evening, as he tossed a scoreless inning against the San Antonio Missions.
The left-hander, who threw 18 total pitches, allowed a leadoff single before getting two groundouts and a flyout to center.
He mostly stuck to his fastball-cutter combination, throwing 11 four-seam fastballs between 92-95 mph, six cut fastballs at 89-91 mph, and one 78 mph curveball. He didn't use his changeup.
Harrison was also working with different mechanics. After switching to a sped-up delivery earlier in the year, the pitcher has returned to the more deliberate motion he used in past seasons.
When the 24-year-old rejoins the big league club, he'll be doing so as a relief pitcher, although he isn't necessarily accustomed to pitching out of the bullpen. Out of his 136 career professional appearances, just two have been in relief, and both came in the minor leagues.
As Harrison explains below, he is slated to pitch a two-inning outing against Northwest Arkansas on Wednesday. If all goes well, he'll fly to Minnesota and join the Rangers for their three-game set against the Twins on Friday.
Lone Star Dugout caught up with Harrison after Monday's game in San Antonio.
Jason Cole: What exactly was the injury that landed you on the disabled list?
Matt Harrison: Biceps tendonitis was the injury. I guess it was going on for a couple weeks before I went on the DL. I thought I could manage it with treatment and stuff, but that last start I had––that long inning got to me and I had nothing on the ball. I was struggling to get the ball to the plate, so they decided to shut me down.
After about a week, I got out of there, so I've been throwing bullpens every other day to get my pitch count back up. They told me yesterday that I was going to work out of the bullpen for right now, so that's what I was doing tonight. I'm getting acclimated to the bullpen. I throw two innings on Wednesday out of the bullpen, I'll see how I feel, and then I'll join the team up I guess.
Cole: Had you ever dealt with the biceps tendonitis issue in the past?
Harrison: No, I've never had tendonitis before. I'd had dead arm before, but it's a little bit different. You don't have any stiffness or anything like that. But yeah, it's my first time experiencing that. Like I said, I thought I could control it, but I guess I should have shut it down a little bit earlier.
Cole: Well, you got your first rehab outing tonight, throwing a scoreless inning. What were your thoughts on it?
Harrison: It was pretty good. It is a little different, coming out of the bullpen. Even when I came out of the bullpen before, I usually knew what inning I was throwing. It was a little bit different getting up and then sitting back down. We had a rough inning there and brought in Lueke to finish it off.
It was definitely different, but it's a matter of finding a routine and not throwing as many pitches to get loose. I think I probably need to work a little bit more out of the stretch in the bullpen than I did, because sometimes I may come out of the bullpen with guys on base.
Cole: Given that you aren't used to getting hot quickly out of the bullpen, did you feel comfortable when you came in for the fifth inning?
Harrison: Yeah, I was good to go when I came in. I threw probably 20 pitches down there and had eight more on the mound. But I never threw a pitch before Lueke came in. I just got some throws in––long tossed a little bit. But once I got back on the mound, my arm felt good. I was good to go when I started the inning.
Cole: I know you pitched out of the bullpen some during the Fall League, but you were on a set schedule. Have you ever been a pure reliever at any time in the past?
Harrison: No, that's probably the only time I have. It wasn't that bad because I came in to start the inning. I didn't have to come in during the middle of the inning. I may have to do that down the road, but for right now, I just tried to get ready the same way today but with less pitches.
I need to find a routine where I can get all my pitches in and still be fresh if I have to sit back down and get ready again. I can't overdo it before coming into the game.
Cole: You looked like you were slowing down your delivery tonight. I know you really sped it up early this year, but didn't you also speed it up some at the end of last season?
Harrison: I sped it up last year. It was a little bit faster this year. I started slowing it gradually, and we just decided to start going back to the slow one. I don't know if that had something to do with the injury or not, but right now I'm feeling more comfortable going slow. I feel like I'm getting a better load and having more behind the ball. I'm not out on my front side as much.
Cole: Obviously the velocity on your four-seam fastball has improved since your thoracic outlet syndrome surgery last season. How else do you feel the surgery has benefitted you as a pitcher?
Harrison: The extra velocity definitely helps. You can make a few more mistakes over the plate. But I think my command has gotten a lot better since I had the surgery. I'm able to use that cutter now. It's just a matter of not babying it, though, and just letting it go––throwing it like a regular pitch. You just have to let the break do the work. I think it's a matter of just trusting my stuff.
Cole: The cutter has gradually developed into a pitch that you really rely on out there. When did you start throwing it?
Harrison: Probably two years ago. I kind of messed around with the grips, but I think I have found one that works now for me. It's just a matter of throwing it more in games and getting a little better feel of it.
Cole: You broke camp in the Rangers' rotation and got six starts there before landing on the DL. Looking back, what are your thoughts on how you've performed thus far?
Harrison: It was hot and cold, I guess. The first two games, I felt great. I had a rough one in Boston. I probably pitched a little too much with the injury. I could have said something earlier and gotten it knocked out of the way. I probably wouldn't have missed as much time as I have.
For right now, I'm going to the bullpen. It's just a different way to help the ballclub. I'm just going to do everything I can to go out there and help the team win.
Cole: Have they told you what kind of role you'll be fulfilling in the bullpen for the time being?
Harrison: They tell me that right now it's going to be long relief. And I'll be the second lefty out of the bullpen. If Oliver pitched earlier in the game or can't go, I'll come in and face a couple lefties if I have to, I guess. Right now just keeping me at a two- or three-inning pace I guess.
Cole: And you said you have one more rehab outing left?
Harrison: I have one more game on Wednesday. I think I have two innings on Wednesday. If that goes well and I don't have any issues or stiffness, I'll join the team on Friday.
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