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A little change reaps big rewards for Fishers' Harris

By ROGER BROWN
New Hampshire Union Leader

July 16. 2018 9:51PM

Fisher Cats starter Jon Harris pitches during Thursday's game against the Portland Sea Dogs in Manchester. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)



MANCHESTER — Jon Harris was 3-3 with an ERA that was north of 5.50 entering his June 12 start at Akron when he unveiled his version of the hidden-ball trick.

Harris, Toronto’s first-round pick (29th overall) in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft, altered his delivery that night and didn’t allow a hit in six scoreless innings to help the New Hampshire Fisher Cats pull out a 6-1 victory.

Since New Hampshire pitching coach Vince Horsman suggested that Harris modify his delivery, Harris is 5-1 with 37 strikeouts and seven walks allowed in 41 2/3 innings.

“We changed his hands,” Horsman explained. “Lowered his hands and kind of made him bring his hands in and up to his back shoulder — give him some fluidity. A little more deception. He tried it for about 15 (pitches) on the side, and then went out there and did it against Akron. Six no-hit innings. Ran with it from there.

“Based on the swings they were getting against Jon — throwing 94, 95 (mph) — they seemed to be on everything that he threw, especially his fastball. I thought he was just losing some deception, so I just wanted him to get his hands closer to his body line and just try to hide the ball a little bit better.

“There was no frustration, but I think we both came to the conclusion that something had to change. He was open for it. ... I think he’s hiding it for a split second longer, and as a hitter it’s a split second longer to react. That’s a long time. That little bit is what can allow a guy to be on a fastball or a little bit behind it. Punchouts are going up and the walks are going down.”

Harris allowed one run on three hits in seven innings during his most recent start, a 3-1 triumph over Portland on Sunday. He retired the final 16 batters he faced.

Harris has won his last six Double-A decisions — he made two starts for Triple-A Buffalo at the end of June and the first week of July — and has a 1.52 ERA in his last five Double-A starts. Overall he’s 8-4 with a 4.29 ERA.

“It’s just being able to hide the ball a little bit longer to where the hitter can’t pick up on it as fast,” Harris said. “That tenth of a second is a huge difference because it’s basically the difference between being on time or not on time. The whole thing for a pitcher is to disrupt that timing.

“This allows me to hide the ball behind my body more. That little modification has made a huge difference the last month, month-and-a half I’ve been doing this.”

Toronto also selected Harris in 33rd round of the 2012 draft, but he elected to attend Missouri State instead of turning pro. In 2015 the Blue Jays selected him with a compensation pick Toronto received when outfielder Melky Cabrera signed as a free agent with the Chicago White Sox. MLB.com lists Harris as the No. 30 prospect in Toronto’s organization.

Harris spent all of last season with the Fisher Cats, and finished the season with a 7-11 record and a 5.41 ERA in 26 starts (143 innings). He allowed 20 home runs, which was tied for fourth most in the Eastern League.

Harris said it didn’t take him long to become comfortable with his new delivery.

“If this is the minor step that gets me over that hump to where I need to be I’m all for it,” he said. “It’s amazing what a minor adjustment can make. When you’re having success, your confidence is through the roof. When you have confidence it’s just attack, attack, attack.”

rbrown@unionleader.com


Fisher Cats Manchester