- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Willie Harris isn’t now, nor will he ever be, a threat to hit 40 home runs. In fact, mere mention of an upswing in Harris’ power numbers - namely the two homers he has hit in the last two days that equaled his homer output for all of 2007 - is enough to send teammates Lastings Milledge and Elijah Dukes into a laughing fit.

But whether it’s a blip on the radar or the start of a trend, Harris’ production the last few games has been difficult to ignore. The utility player, who turned 30 on Sunday, celebrated with a pinch-hit homer and followed it up with a homer, a triple and two runs Monday.

Nine of his 16 hits this season have gone for extra bases, and despite logging just 91 at-bats, he has scored 20 runs.

“I’m not trying to hit home runs or anything like that,” Harris said. “I’m getting lucky.”

If there’s any change in Harris’ approach this season, it’s that he has adapted hitting coach Lenny Harris’ philosophy on pinch hitting: Don’t take unnecessary pitches and if there’s a mistake early in the count, jump on it.



And though it’s not his typical approach, Harris realized it has worked for him before. He loaded some film of himself from last season, when he hit a career-high .270 in 117 games for Atlanta, and found he succeeded by swinging early.

“The only different thing is I’m being more aggressive,” Harris said. “I’m the type of hitter where I want to see pitches, work the pitcher and try to get little singles and draw walks and just score runs. Early in the count right now, I’m just being more aggressive. I’m not going to change it until I need to.”

Hood in town

Outfielder Destin Hood, the Nationals’ second-round pick in this month’s MLB draft, visited Nationals Park on Tuesday for a workout. Hood took batting practice, met a handful of Nationals players and posed for pictures with Angels outfielder Torii Hunter, who is also represented by Hood’s agent, Larry Reynolds.

The Mobile, Ala., native has signed a letter of intent to play wide receiver for Alabama and also was recruited by LSU, Florida and Auburn. While Hood’s father, Dewayne, has said his son expects to be paid like a first-rounder, Washington general manager Jim Bowden reiterated he expects Hood will sign.

Though it might have been nothing more than a case of good manners while he was in town, Hood did nothing to hurt the process.

“I would love to pursue a professional career, but we’ve just got to work everything out,” Hood said. “Coach Saban is very understanding. Whenever it gets done, it’s fine with him. If it doesn’t, I’m just going to go report in August, whenever.”

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