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Harkey Gets His Chance With Cubs

Times Staff Writer

From all Mike Harkey had heard, the end of the minor league season would be the end of his baseball season.

But several hours before the Chicago Cub game against Cincinnati Friday, Harkey sat in the clubhouse at Wrigley Field while equipment managers outfitted him with a major league uniform.

The Cubs called up Harkey from Iowa of the triple-A American Assn. as part of the Sept. 1 roster expansion, which allows teams to carry 40 players.

And although he had to stay with at Iowa until after its final game Thursday, Harkey wasted little time getting to Chicago, making the six-hour drive from Des Moines during the night in order to make it to Wrigley for a day game Friday.

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The Cubs aren’t wasting any time getting a look at Harkey, either. He’s scheduled to start the second game of a Monday doubleheader in Wrigley Field against the Phillies.

“You can see he’s got a loose arm and a good fastball,” Cub Manager Don Zimmer told the Chicago Tribune. “You can see that in a minute.” Harkey, a right-handed pitcher from Cal State Fullerton, was the first collegiate player drafted and the fourth pick overall in the 1987 June draft.

By the end of last season, he had made his way to the Cubs’ double-A team in Pittsfield, Mass. He started this season in Pittsfield, and on July 3 was promoted to Iowa, where he got off to a 7-1 start.

So much for years of toil in the minors.

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“That’s the whole idea, to do it as fast as you can and as well as you can,” Harkey said.

Harkey was told Tuesday--right before he was scheduled to start for Iowa--that he would be called up.

And Harkey, excited to the point of distraction, allowed four hits and four earned runs in four innings of a 6-3 loss to Omaha.

His record dropped to 7-2, and his earned-run average edged up to 3.55.

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“I just couldn’t concentrate,” he said.

Harkey had been told he probably wouldn’t be called up Sept. 1. Teams that aren’t in pennant races often use the roster expansion to give young players a taste of major league competition, but the Cubs told Harkey they likely would just send him home for some rest.

But there he is, at Wrigley Field.

“I’m just here to get some work in, I think,” said Harkey. “I haven’t talked to the manager or the pitching coach yet, so I haven’t really been told what I’ll do.” These September visits aren’t permanent all that often. A lot of players who get to the major leagues in September are back in triple-A at the beginning of the next season.

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That’s not in Harkey’s plans.

“I look at it as if I’m here to stay,” he said. “I’m going to learn some things in this month of September and come out in spring training and win the job.”

Harkey realizes full well there are differences between triple-A and the major leagues.

When Harkey met pitchers in triple-A who had been in the majors, he almost always had questions for them.

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“I learned as much as I could,” he said. “I asked a lot of questions. I learned a lot just from talking to people.”


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