Josh Harrison fills the bill as utilityman for Pirates



LAKELAND, Fla. — A fraction of a second after making contact Tuesday, Josh Harrison dashed out of the batter’s box for a double in his first at-bat against Detroit.

Such an aggressive mindset is exactly what Harrison wants to flash this spring to retain his roster spot on the Pirates.

“I wouldn’t even say just in the spring. That’s my mindset in general,” said Harrison. “In the field, at the plate, on the bases — I like to put pressure anyway I can.”

Two batters later, Harrison scored on Jaff Decker’s squeeze bunt, further illustrating the aggressive baserunning manager Clint Hurdle is seeking this spring.

“Harrison? That’s a double out of the box. He’s quick. He’s just going for it right out of the box,” said Hurdle after the 5-2 win against the Tigers.

“We’ve always asked that from Josh and we’ve asked it from everybody this spring. Right now … we are running the bases extremely well as a group. We stole a couple more bases [Tuesday]. Put on a handful of hit-and-runs, delayed steals, first moves off left-handers.

“It’s all part of the offensive package we need to pick up.”

Harrison filled a utility role in 2013, and that remains a large part of his value along with that pop on the basepaths. He hit .250 in just 88 at-bats in 60 games, playing most infield positions, right field, and once coming in to pitch an inning.

He already has made starts at second and third base this spring while going 4 for 8 with playing time in four games.

He doesn’t expect they’ll need him in the bullpen.

“Yeah, we’ll keep that out. If I have to do that in spring training, we’re in trouble,” joked Harrison.

He remains willing to do whatever he can, though, and said he won’t let spring competition to make the roster change a thing.

“It’s no different than what I’ve been doing,” said Harrison.

“I don’t worry about anything. The minute you start to focus on outside factors is when you lose focus and you’re not at your best to help the team. Do your part to help the team win any way possible.”

Injured Locke to miss start

Jeff Locke will not make his scheduled start today against the Toronto Blue Jays because of tightness in his right side. After the game, Hurdle did not provide further information about the seriousness of the injury. Right-hander Jay Jackson is scheduled to get the start instead in Dunedin, Fla.

Polanco excels again

Top prospect Gregory Polanco flashed his smooth swing again Tuesday from the No. 3 spot, drilling an RBI double to right that scored Decker in the third. Polanco also had an infield single in the first and finished 2 for 3.

It was his second start this spring and his first appearance as the No. 3 hitter.

“He’s doing some good things. Obviously, the awareness has picked up. You hit a guy third … ?” said Hurdle. “Hanging breaking ball, and he bangs it off the wall. He’s had three ground-ball hits up the middle. He makes this look rather not complicated in center. Moves around well out there. This is the spring-training opportunity he’s got. We’ll see how it works here.”

Happy with start

The Pirates are 5-1 and atop the Grapefruit League standings one week into the exhibition season.

The final score does not mean much, reminded Hurdle, but it might be indicative of how the club is playing.

“The record, I’m not caught up in the record. I love the way we’re playing,” Hurdle said. “I like the way we’re playing. I like the way we’re going about our work. Because we’re working extremely hard.

“The focus has been really, really good. Then come game time we’re actually just playing the game, and that’s really fun to watch.”


Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1959 and Twitter @JennMenendez.

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