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Harvey Hits His Stride

By Jack Magruder
November 5, 2002

Ambres, Freeman
Ken Harvey
Photo: Michael Walby
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.–Ken Harvey had his worst summer season, and his best.

So far, it has translated into a superb Arizona Fall League campaign.

At the beginning of his minor league season, the Scottsdale first baseman adopted a new stance–think Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell. Predictably, the switch was not without its breaking-in period as he got off to a slower than usual start.

Yet Harvey, one of the top hitters in the Royals organization, regrouped to finish .277-20-75 at Triple-A Omaha while pounding out 31 doubles and stealing eight bases, finishing strong with an 11-game hitting streak.

He took his numbers to a different level in the first five weeks of the prospect-dominated AFL, going .512-4-28 with eight doubles in his first 82 at-bats.

"Toward the end of the year I just got hot,’’ said Harvey, a fifth-round pick in 1999 out of Nebraska, where he led NCAA Division I in hitting at .478.

"I felt like I was really getting it. I was really happy. I wanted to get called up’’ to the parent Royals when rosters expanded, but was not. "The fact that I came here, I just figured I’d take it upon myself to try to carry over. I think I have.’’

Like Bagwell, Harvey does not stride into the ball at the plate, instead pivoting to create his power and drive.

"It’s more of an open stance, and diving to the ball,’’ Harvey said. "I’m spread out more. There are not any more triggers, just basically pivots. You see the ball a lot longer and recognize pitches a lot better.’’

Harvey, listed at 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds, hardly seemed a candidate for a stance makeover, considering he had been a hitting machine in the low minors after being a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award as a junior.

Harvey batted .397-8-41 in 204 at-bats for short-season Spokane that summer before hitting .335-4-25 in an injury-shortened 2000 season. He followed that with a composite .350-15-90 in stops at Class A Wilmington and Double-A Wichita before a four-game trip to the majors in 2001, after which he had a bone chip removed from his right big toe.

Even so, Harvey felt there was room for improvement and looked for a more comfortable approach.

"I had trouble recognizing balls and strikes,’’ said Harvey, 24. "I was chasing a lot more stuff than I am now, or just getting too aggressive. This has made me see the pitch a lot better and recognize it a lot quicker. You are going to have your days when you chase pitches or whatever. But I think ultimately it’s helped me cut it down and minimize it a lot more.’’

Not that the change was easy. Harvey spent the spring in big league camp and did not get many game opportunities to test his stroke. When the regular season began, he went into a bit of a funk, and was hitting .219 on May 2.

"I got off to such a bad start,’’ Harvey said. "Usually I get off to a hot start and it carries you over for the year. I really had to work for what I got this year, and I think this year helped me more than any other.

"I learned how to struggle. I learned how to deal with it. I’ll just move on now. It’s helped me a lot. There were days when I didn’t want to deal with it, but it helped me grow up a lot quicker.’’

Harvey wanted to stress defense and getting deeper into counts during the AFL season, especially after putting together a modest 42-87 walk-strikeout ratio in 128 games for Omaha. He has seen the increased patience pay dividends.

"I wanted to work the count a little bit more,’’ he said, "and if they don’t want to pitch to you, then learn to take my walks. I’ve been trying to really concept that. Hopefully I’ll master it and incorporate that into my game.’’

Told a hitter wants to hit, Harvey said: "Exactly. But I’ve seen that working into deeper counts and not being afraid to go into deep counts can really help you as far as the game goes. Because once (pitchers) figure out that you do know the strike zone, then you are going to get a lot more pitches to hit.’’

Fall Guys

• As often occurs this time of the year here, a dearth of healthy pitching led games of Nov. 2 to be restricted to seven innings. Full nine-inning games were played Nov. 3. Major league organizations are especially careful of their pitchers here–prospects all–as the conclusion of a long season nears. The championship game is Nov. 23.

• Mesa righthander Ryan Cameron (Rockies) pitched two scoreless innings of relief for his first victory of the season Nov. 3, a 3-1 decision over Peoria. Cameron, 1-2, 3.74 in 13 games, had 36 strikeouts in his first 22 innings while giving up 16 hits.

• Scottsdale infielder Chone Figgins (Angels) reported to the league after finishing his World Series run with Anaheim.

• Scottsdale righthander Kyle Snyder (Royals) became the first starter to go six innings in a 2-0 victory over Maryvale on Nov. 2. Snyder, 1-0, 2.89, gave up one hit in six shutout innings and faced only one batter over the minimum while striking out four. The 6-foot-8 Snyder, the seventh player taken in the 1999 draft, is second in the league with 28 innings. He has missed most of the past three seasons with an assortment of injuries, including Tommy John surgery in September of 2000.

• Peoria lefthander Dave Sanders (White Sox) won his league-leading sixth game with 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief in a 5-4 victory over Maryvale on Nov. 1. Sanders has given up one earned run in 17 2/3 innings, a 0.51 ERA. Just two pitchers in Fall League history have won as many as seven games, Peoria righthander Stacy Hollins in 1994 and Grand Canyon righthander Jason Johnson in 1998. Mesa righthander Hansel Izquierdo led the league with six victories in 2001.

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