Pirates notebook: Josh Harrison’s trip home has special meaning

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CINCINNATI — The best perk to coming home for Josh Harrison as an All-Star is still the same perk that always greets him in the Queen City.

“My house. My bed. There’s nothing like sleeping at home,” said Harrison, who grew up in Cincinnati and makes his offseason home there as well.

This latest twist, coming home as a National League All-Star, has made life a bit hectic since he was named to the team along with center fielder Andrew McCutchen and relief pitcher Tony Watson.

“I’ve had to clear my notifications, put my phone on silent,” Harrison said. “Ever since the news last Sunday my phone has been going off. Not to mention Tuesday was my birthday. So happy birthday texts, now we’re coming back to Cincinnati. It’s all good. It’s always good to come home.”

Harrison was a standout second baseman at the University of Cincinnati before being drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 2008, and then traded to the Pirates in 2009.

His star has shined this season as a super utility player who has become so valuable to the lineup, that manager Clint Hurdle has worked to get him a spot almost every day since his hot streak started.

And then he went and beat wild odds to make the All-Star team.

“Coming back before I was an All-Star was overwhelming,” Harrison said. “We come back for three games and everybody is, ‘Oh what are you doing after the game?’ Now I’m coming back as an All-Star, it’s to the max. ‘Oh, I’m coming to the game tonight, look for me.’ You can’t respond to everybody. I talk to my parents all the time. It’s overwhelming, but it’s exciting to know that I have the support from everybody back home.”

Harrison hardly could count how many will be in the stands this weekend to send him off to Target Field and Minneapolis for All-Star festivities.

But it certainly will include his immediate family — his wife and 5-month-old daughter — who got some quality dad time Friday before the game.

“It was just me and my daughter from 9 to like 1,” Harrison said. “She did not want to take a nap either. She knew daddy was home. She did not want to take a nap.”

Focus off standings

Hurdle said standings are never posted in the clubhouse and prefers to focus inward rather than fixate on the standings in the tight National League Central Division.

“Look how this thing’s twisted in three months? We were on the outside looking in. Brewers were running away with things, now you’ve got four teams all tightened up. It should be an exciting summer,” he said. “We’re more in tune with what we need to do as far as playing well, then who you’re playing, what you’ve got to do. … When we’re focused on our game we’re served best.”

Morton’s sinker in sync

Hurdle said Charlie Morton returned to relying on his sinker in his previous outing, after having turned to his curveball in his other starts.

“There were no extra conversations had, or anything along those lines,” Hurdle said. “I think a lot of pitchers, the first 10-15 pitches that come out of their hand mean a lot to them. When the sinker came out as hot as it did, initially, it was a much better feel pitch for him. There’s been some games where that thing hasn’t come out as well. He’s backed away, and put the breaking ball in play more and more, than tried to go back and revisit it.”

Morton allowed just one hit in seven scoreless innings Monday night at St. Louis, but recorded a no-decision in a 2-0 walk-off loss.

“It came out with really good late life, and really good late movement and he was able to capitalize on it throughout the outing,” Hurdle said.

Jenn Menendez jmenendez@post-gazette.com and Twitter @JennMenendez.

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