SAN DIEGO — It is a few hours before game time Saturday when Bryan Harvey, reliever extraordinaire, comes breezing into a Southern California major league clubhouse, wearing blue jeans and eating barbecue potato chips.
It is a clubhouse about 100 miles south from the one in which he used to report for work. It is in the other league and the uniform in his locker has a suspicious amount of teal in it.
One thing about Harvey and his lethal right arm moving to the Florida Marlins: It allows all of baseball, rather than just the American League, to wonder in amazement about the Angels--the team that said Harvey wouldn't be the same after arthroscopic elbow surgery last August and left him unprotected in the expansion draft.
"The Angels are not looking real good right now, are they?" said San Diego Padre right fielder Tony Gwynn with a chuckle. "The Angels were like, 'This guy can't pitch any more.'
Marcel Lachemann, Marlin pitching coach who has been with Harvey since Harvey began with the Angels in 1987, says nothing has changed.
"Right now, he's probably as good as I've seen him," Lachemann said.
Added Florida Manager Rene Lachemann: "He's been outstanding. He couldn't be much better. He's been perfect except for one outing. . . .
"To me, I feel he's up there with (Oakland stopper Dennis) Eckersley, or any of them. Eck told me that himself two years ago.
"I figure he knows as well as anybody."
Well, almost anybody.
As Florida prepared for Saturday night's game against the Padres, the Marlins had won 23 games and Harvey had figured in 16 of them--15 saves and one victory.
The Angels, meanwhile, scour Anaheim Stadium daily for anything that might to help patch a threadbare bullpen. "You've got a guy like that in the bullpen--they've won 23 games and he's got what, something like 19 saves?--it seems to me that he'd be a pretty important cog on my ballclub," Gwynn said.
It has been pretty much the same story for Harvey since he struck out the Dodgers' Jose Offerman on opening day to save Florida's first game. Game's on the line? Call Harv and, boom, game's over.
"I'm real happy," Harvey said. "I'm healthy. That's all that matters. I've had no problems at all.
"You never know how it's going to be after any surgery. Spring training was a little tough, getting over the scar tissue. But when the season came, the arm was fine. My mechanics were a mess--that's why I was glad to be back with Lach."
Harvey and Marcel Lachemann fit together like a ball and glove. Lachemann can recognize Harvey's subtleties as well as anyone, and it was he who scouted Harvey when Harvey began throwing after the surgery last fall.
"There was a degree of gamble involved, no doubt, any time there is surgery on a pitcher's arm," Lachemann said. "We felt with his makeup and with the fact that he was throwing the ball well after surgery on rehab--not in games--that it was enough to believe the surgery had done its work."
Lachemann said Harvey's mechanics were off earlier this year, but not as much as Harvey says.
"He reported to spring training in good shape but, as usual, he's always a slow starter," Lachemann said. "He gradually got himself into shape and when the bell rang, he was ready to roll."
Roll? How about steamroll? Entering Saturday's game, 20 of Harvey's last 39 outs were strikeouts. In his past 14 games, he was 1-0 with 10 saves and hadn't allowed an earned run.
He was tied for fourth in the National League in saves and, barring a catastrophe, will break Enrique Romo's record for most saves by a reliever with a first-year expansion team. Romo had 16 for Seattle in 1977.
And, perhaps, Harvey leads the league in trade talk. The guy has been so impressive that there is a strong feeling that he won't even finish the season with the Marlins, that some contending club will swoop in and pick him up for the stretch run.
"Atlanta has been the big one I've heard about," Harvey said. "The Yankees and the Phillies, too."
"Whatever happens is fine," Harvey said. "I'd love to stay in one spot. Everybody in Florida has been great. But if I get traded to a contender, that's fine, too."
What's amusing is that, if things continue as they are, the Angels could be a contender with a big weakness deep in their bullpen. A Harvey return, though, would probably be a little far-fetched.
"I would doubt that it would ever happen," Harvey said. "They let a guy go and now give up two or three players to get him back? I don't see it happening."
Still, he said he misses the Angels, particularly pals Chuck Finley and Mark Langston. But while the Angels may be a laughingstock for cutting him loose, you won't find Harvey criticizing them.
"They gave me a nice contract before I left there and I'm pretty happy with that," said Harvey, whose final three years of an $11-million contract have been picked up by Florida. "So I owe them a lot. They gave me the opportunity to play baseball in the first place. I hold nothing against them."