Published on September 5th, 2012 | by John Friend0
Pirates’ Josh Harrison Sticks with Club From Start to Finish
When the Pirates opened the 2012 season, they did so with a six-man bench, including Matt Hague, Casey McGehee, Nate McLouth, Josh Harrison, Michael McKenry and Yamaico Navarro.
Coming into the season, it was known that McKenry would get his fair share of starts behind the plate in order to spell veteran Rod Barajas. McKenry has done just that, playing in 67 games compared to Barajas’ 89. The playing time at catcher has gone according to plan and, if anything, is exceeding expectations set before the season.
McGehee and McLouth were brought in to provide a veteran presence as well as some pop off the bench. Neither was able to do so, as McLouth was outright released at the end of May and McGehee was traded to the Yankees at the deadline for washed-up reliever Chad Qualls.
Since being released, McLouth has been signed by the Baltimore Orioles and is hitting .265 with two home runs and 10 RBI through 25 games. McGehee was demoted to the minor leagues as of August 29 and was just recalled as of September 4.
Hague lasted five games with the Pirates before being sent down to AAA Indianapolis. Hague was recalled again at the end of May and stayed with the big league club for almost a month before being sent back to AAA again. Hague has been ineffective for the Pirates, as he has zero home runs, seven RBI and is batting .229 through 30 games.
Navarro has been even less effective for Pittsburgh this season, batting .160 with an OBP of .232. Navarro has only played 29 games with the Pirates this season and, barring injury, most likely will not get another chance in 2012.
That leads us directly to the only bench player left who started the season with the Pirates—Josh Harrison. Harrison started the season with the club and has not been demoted once during the 2012 season.
As of September 4, Harrison has appeared in 85 of the Pirates 134 games in 2012. His versatility, energy and passion have kept him on this squad for the long run and he is going nowhere. When asked what his natural position was by MLB Network’s Harold Reynolds, Harrison had the following to say:
“I feel like I’ve put enough work in the infield to be comfortable at second, short or third and even a little bit of outfield.”
- Josh Harrison, MLB.com
Harrison has shown that his defense is more than adequate at all positions in 2012, committing only four errors while playing five positions. Harrison has made several bare-handed, highlight-reel plays at third base in limited action at the position.
Shortstop – 22 games
Second Base – 16 games
Third Base – 13 games
Right Field – 12 games
Left Field – 1 games
Harrison is not a starter in the majors at this point and does not project to be one, but with the passion he show for the game he is a great player off the bench. If there is one player on this bench Clint Hurdle feels most comfortable with, it’s Harrison. He has been called upon on various occasions to light a fire under his club.
Through 85 games, Harrison is batting .238 with three home runs, 14 rbi and five stolen bases. His numbers do not stand out, but his energetic play is what has separated him from the other bench players that started the season with the team.
Harrison broke up Justin Verlander’s bid for a no-hitter against the Pirates earlier this season with only two outs remaining. More recently, Harrison bull-rushed Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina in a vital game with playoff implications on a close play at the plate. Harrison was called out on the play, but such a high-intensity play can go a long way for a club.
It left its impression on the manager.
“It can spark a team,” Hurdle said. “I’ve been in situations before where a hard slide at second base or something like that can definitely do it. Josh wanted to score a run at the end of the day, that’s what he tried to do.”
Harrison has solidified himself as major league player and now looks to stay in the show. With Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez and several everyday infielders ahead of him on the depth chart, Harrison does not figure to get extended periods of playing time with the Pirates.
If the Pirates were to make Harrison available over the winter, another team would most certainly give Harrison a chance to play every day. For now, the Pirates are glad to have such a spark plug on this team, as this team knows exactly what they are going to get from Harrison every time he steps on the field—energy.
Image Keith Allison @ flickr