The Pittsburgh Pirates have recalled Josh Harrison from his rehab assignment today, and have designated Josh Wall for assignment, per a team press release. The move is expected, as we learned yesterday that Harrison and Jordy Mercer were expected back this weekend. Beyond that, Ryan Palencer reported on their status earlier in the week, and quoted Harrison as saying he didn’t expect to remain with Indianapolis through their current road trip.
Wall was only up to provide temporary bullpen help after the Pirates went 15 innings earlier in the week. My guess is that Wall was called up mostly because he’s a guy you can waive after a day or two and not worry about losing for September.
As for Harrison’s role, this is where things might get interesting. Aramis Ramirez has been hitting well lately, but has been horrible defensively. Harrison was hitting well before his injury, but struggled in his rehab work. He also wasn’t the best defender at the start of the year. So it might be best for the Pirates to move him back to the super utility role he excelled in last year. That would especially be the case when Jordy Mercer returns, allowing the Pirates to move Jung-ho Kang to third base and put Mercer in at short, strengthening the defense.
At any rate, Harrison’s return starts the process of giving the Pirates a strong bench, which I wrote about a few days ago.
UPDATE 6:12 PM: Live coverage from Pete Ellis at PNC Park…
The Pirates have immediately inserted Josh Harrison right back into the starting lineup tonight against the Giants and LHP Madison Bumgarner, batting lead-off and playing second base.
Harrison played five games in his rehab stint with Indianapolis, including three starts at third base, one at second base, and two in the corner outfield positions.
“I feel like I’m ready now. I’ve got what I got. I feel I’ve got enough to help this push,” Harrison said confidently. “At this point, I’m ready to go and I feel like I can play with no restrictions.”
Hurdle said before today’s game that Harrison will not be placed directly into everyday third base duties. With his versatility, it is likely we will see Harrison bounce around between the corner outfield, third base and second base. As I stated yesterday, Harrison is a viable option to platoon with Walker at second base against left-handed pitchers, and the Pirates have already gone that route.
“That’s definitely an option that we have,” Hurdle said when asked if Harrison will receive the bulk of the playing time at second base against lefties. “We like his defensive play at second base. We like the bat against any left-hander in multiple places.”
Hurdle also acknowledged that Ramirez will not be an option to play every day going forward, which could keep him fresher and more productive heading into September. The final question is what Jordy Mercer’s role will be when he completes his rehab assignment within the next couple of days. Hurdle has consistently stated that Mercer is their best defensive option at shortstop, but it remains to be seen whether Mercer will receive the bulk of playing time at shortstop, or if will he fall into the role of a spot-starter/late-game defensive replacement. The flexibility with the roster will allow Hurdle to get creative in-game with double-switches and substitutions, depending on the game situation. As for how the lineup will take shape throughout the rest of the season, Hurdle stayed tight-lipped.
“I would encourage you to keep showing up and watching the lineup posting,” Hurdle joked.