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Harris claims starting SS job, more or less

It seems clear the first-year Ray has passed Ben Zobrist.

By MARC TOPKIN
Published April 26, 2007


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Manager Joe Maddon wanted to stop short of a pronouncement.

But between what he has been writing on the lineup card and what he has been saying, it has become clear that Brendan Harris has gone from sharing time at shortstop with Ben Zobrist to being the primary starter.

"He is right now. Absolutely. I can't deny that," Maddon said before Wednesday's game with the Angels. "It's semantics. He's playing the preponderance of the time. So I think I'd have to consider him the starter at this moment. He's done a nice job. I think he deserves to play right now. I really do. That's how I'm seeing it."

Harris, 26, went 1-for-4 Wednesday and sports a .317 average, with hits in nine of his 11 games, and has also been solid in the field. Maddon likes not only what he has done but how he has done it, especially the high number of pitches he sees in each plate appearance (4.7, among the team leaders).

"He's our kind of player," Maddon said. "The kind of guy we talked about all last year. This guy is a great teammate. He works very hard. He has an understanding of how to play the game. And the biggest thing for me is that the quality of the at-bat has improved. And that's what I'm really paying attention to."

Wednesday's game was the fifth in the past six Harris was at short. But Maddon insisted he hasn't given up yet on Zobrist, who has been struggling with a .164 average and was slowed several days by a virus.

"Zoey had a real good extra work day (Tuesday)," Maddon said. "I want him to just settle down and work on a couple things, and recharge himself emotionally and mentally. I still believe he can play a very good shortstop for us also, it's just right now Brendan is playing at such a high level."

At this point, Maddon hasn't planned to use Zobrist at other positions. "We'll see how this all plays out," he said. "I haven't gone there yet, but it's a good question."