Infielder Josh Harrison learned a lot from his rookie season in the majors in 2011 with Pittsburgh. The 24-year-old began the season with Triple-A Indianapolis before making his Major League debut at third base on May 31 against the New York Mets. Harrison went on to appear in 65 games with the club. He bounced around with the Pirates playing at third and second, and over the offseason Harrison spent time playing short, a position he played in college at the University of Cincinnati. He also spent time in spring training getting reps in left field to further expand his versatility.
Harrison said his experience last year in the Majors has definitely helped him this year into adjusting into a bench role after spending the majority of his professional role as an everyday player.
“Last year definitely helped a lot,” Harrison said. “I know [Pirates Manager] Clint [Hurdle] likes to use his bench. I learned that last year so I know this year, being in that same role to be ready at any point, whether it’s the middle of the game, towards the end of the game. Just making sure I stay ready because he likes to use his bench.”
“It’s definitely a different mind set. I’m always ready to play the game, but when you’re on the bench, you can definitely play a lot more scenarios in your head as far as what may happen in the game. You look at who’s in the bullpen, or what matchups might be coming up. When you’re in the game, you’re just in the game. You’re just focusing on that pitch. When you’re on the bench, you can definitely look at certain situations and say that I may be pinch-running here, or used in a double-switch. It’s a little different mindset, but either way you have to be ready.”
In order to stay loose during the games, Harrison said he moves around, stretches and takes advantage while playing at PNC Park by going up the tunnel into the indoor batting cages.
“Try to just keep my legs moving,” Harrison said. “We have a pretty nice tunnel up under. I go up there and stretch or ride a bike. Just to stay as loose as I can.”
Harrison’s versatility makes him a super-utility player, with the ability to play four different positions, as well as in the infield and outfield. Harrison got the start at short on Monday, where he went 1-for-4 with an RBI. Overall this season, Harrison has a .200/.231/.320 line in 25 at-bats.
“I think it’s the realization and the understanding,” Hurdle said on how Harrison has adjusted to his new role. “The reality of the situation is No. 1. Most players say, ‘well I play everyday. And when I play everyday, I’ve done well.’ You’re in the big leagues now and the guy that’s playing in front of you is better than you. It’s a reality situation. A lot of guys don’t deal with that well. When they do get opportunities to play, they think, okay. I threw a three-for-five out there today, I’m going to stay in the lineup. I’m going to change the lineup around with a big day. That’s not the reality of the situation. Normally it’s to give that guy playing ahead of you a blow, or it’s a match up. I think No. 1 it’s him understanding what his role is here right now. That’s to fill in, move around.”
“The preparation is the second part of it. Knowing what you need to stay engaged, stay fresh, stay fresh mentally, physically. He has a much better grasp of that this year. His attitude is perfect for the role. Once guys get here, they find out, it takes some time, but they find out baking up here, is probably better than playing everyday at Triple-A. If they’ve already done that, and done pretty well with that. This is the next step.”