New reliever Raley seeks Will Harris' advice

June 30th, 2021

HOUSTON -- With his emergence as one of manager Dusty Baker’s key bullpen weapons this year, left-hander Brooks Raley turned to Nationals pitcher Will Harris -- formerly of the Astros -- to get some advice on the proper mindset to have with the game on the line.

Raley, who has been a starter for much of his career, sought help from teammate Joe Smith and asked him to hook him up with Harris, a bullpen stalwart with the Astros from 2015-19. Harris had a 2.36 ERA and 0.987 WHIP in 309 games with Houston.

“He had a lot success doing it and did it often,” Raley said. “I was like, ‘You think I can reach out to Will and talk through all that?’ And [Smith] said, ‘Absolutely.’ I called him a few weeks back and started going through that role and how he made adjustments.”

Harris talked to Raley about coming into a game in the middle of an inning with guys on base and how important it is to know matchups and who’s on deck. He said if you have guys on first and second base and one out, you can give up a hit, but you have to try to strike out one of the next two batters and try and play for that last out.

“Some of the things he said, I’ve thought about some of those things but never fully processed what that situation fully entailed and how much you’re just playing against the odds and trying to get them a little more in your favor,” Raley said.

Raley also talked to Harris about his cutter usage. Raley has thrown his cutter 39.8 percent of his pitches this year, and it’s a weapon for him against right-handers. Harris’ cutter was his signature pitch through much of his time with the Astros.

“I was like, ‘Hey man, I kind of have had some tough luck this year with a couple of flairs falling in in some tough spots late in the game,’” Raley said. “He said, ‘If you’re going to throw cutters, it’s part of it. Just look at me, I’ve had a lot of those.’ He was like, ‘Just understand it’s going to take three of those to beat you, so pound the zone. I always went with the approach of being really aggressive with my stuff.’”

As a former starter, Raley said he knows how important it is to strand runners on base when you’re a reliever.

“I grew up as a starter, so you know when you come into a game and relieve someone, you’re really rooting for him and you want him to get through it,” he said. “You always want those guys to care. Now I’m that guy, having been that starter and trying to stop that and preserve the win and pitch in that role, it’s such a cool role to pitch in. You want to be successful. It was cool to pick his brain.”

Raley had posted a 1.23 ERA in his previous nine appearances prior to Tuesday’s game, and a 3.00 ERA in 17 outings since May 10. Lefties have a .214 batting average against him, and he has struck out 37 batters in 27 2/3 innings overall this year.