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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Utility man Harris pitches in with homer
The 26-year-old records his first AL hit with a three-run shot in the fourth inning.
By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published April 8, 2007
ST. PETERSBURG - Rays utility infielder Brendan Harris realizes his at-bats are going to be rare and his playing time will come all around the playing field.
"It's kind of the nature of the beast," Harris said. "When you come off the bench, you have to get your running in and get your swings in because playing time is going to be sporadic."
Harris hadn't played in a week, since the team's exhibition finale March 31, but Saturday, he made the most of his first start as a Devil Ray, hitting a three-run homer in his first official at-bat.
He took a two-out, 1-2 pitch from Blue Jays starter Tomo Ohka over the right-centerfield fence, the major blow in the Rays' four-run fourth inning in a 7-5 loss.
It was Harris' fourth career homer in 112 big-league at-bats, and his first American League hit.
"I hit a couple balls like that at Al Lang and they were F9 (fly out to rightfield), so I came tearing out of the box," Harris said. "I was just trying to hit something hard. The last thing I was trying to do was drive one out.
"It feels good because I haven't been in there, so contributing, you want to do that the first time you get in there and kind of feel part of it."
The home run came on Harris' first official at-bat as a Ray - he walked in the second inning - and he became the seventh player in team history to accomplish that feat. Elijah Dukes did the same on Monday in New York.
Harris earned a roster spot in the spring with his flexibility in the field, trying out every infield position and also leftfield. Although he was added to the team's 40-man roster after he was acquired from the Reds in January for cash considerations, he had to earn a roster spot.
His opportunity came Saturday because manager Joe Maddon wanted to give switch-hitting shortstop Ben Zobrist the night off so he could bat left-handed today against right-handed Toronto ace Roy Halladay.
"I felt fresh," Harris said. "I had a lot of energy built up the first couple innings. It just took me a couple innings to get my legs under me. I felt like I was bouncing around. After the first inning, I had a couple of balls hit to me and I felt more comfortable and got back into the flow of the game."
At 26, Harris is with his fourth organization and has never had more than 50 at-bats. And because Maddon loves bench versatility, his place with the Rays offers the most opportunity yet.