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Real test is how Matt Harrison responds

4/27/2011

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The first inning of Tuesday night's 10-3 loss was ugly for Matt Harrison.

"He just didn't have it," manager Ron Washington said.

Harrison gave up back-to-back singles on the first two pitches he threw, then walked Jose Bautista to load the bases. After a single put the Blue Jays on the board, Harrison walked Juan Rivera on four pitches. Rivera was hitting just .148 coming into the game and Harrison didn't throw anything very close to the strike zone against him. He then walked J.P. Arencibia to put the first six Blue Jays on base. By the time the inning was over, it was 5-0 Toronto.

"That struck a nerve," Harrison said about the walks. "I was really ticked off when that happened. But it's my own fault. They swing the bats and I shouldn't have walked three guys, especially in one inning. They are going to swing the bats, at least put the ball close to the zone."

Harrison was also mad at himself that when his club scored three runs to close the gap to 5-3, he couldn't produce a shutdown inning, allowing a solo homer to Adam Lind and then three straight singles to make it a 7-3 game.

By the time Harrison returned to the dugout and was taken out after three innings, he was having flashbacks to 2009.

"I was talking to C.J. [Wilson] and I said, 'What I did that first inning felt like me two years ago,' "Harrison said. "I just let the game get out of hand. I lost my focus tonight, and that's what happens when you lose your focus out there. I have to recover from this and just forget about it."

The Harrison of two years ago would have trouble doing that. But Harrison is confident he's different now. Even as he talked with reporters, the book that he's referred to so much this offseason -- The Mental ABC's of Pitching by H.A. Dorfman -- sat in his locker.

"I was immature a couple of years ago and I think my maturity level has gotten better with experience, and I think that I look at this start and what happened two years ago and I don't plan on letting that happen to me and letting two or three bad starts in a row happen," Harrison said.

Harrison said his rhythm was off Tuesday. Something he concentrates on -- and his wife will gladly and loudly remind him of if she's in the stands -- is the need to slow down. Harrison has a tendency to get quick with his delivery. He said Tuesday that he went to the slide step with men on base to hold runners and give the hitter a different look. But instead of slowing down once he went back into the stretch, he kept speeding up.

"I'll take what I can from this and apply it to the next start," Harrison said. "When I'm out there running tomorrow I'll try to run that madness out of myself. ...I know I have to rebound from that. It was a rough start. I just have to get over it."

That's the real test. If this is indeed the more mature and better prepared Harrison, which it appears to be, he'll forget about this start and return to form. It will be interesting to see how he reacts in Oakland this weekend.