PITTSBURGH — The Pirates will be without second baseman Josh Harrison for at least one game after he suffered a right groin injury in the team’s 8-7 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday.
Harrison was not available to reporters Saturday or before the game Sunday, but he is not in the starting lineup and manager Clint Hurdle suggested that it would be at least one day off for his usual leadoff hitter.
“I think we’re going to give him another day,” Hurdle said “I know [trainer Todd Tomczyk] is a fan of letting things settle overnight, re-examining and then seeing what the next step is going to be.”
UPDATE 1:37 p.m: General manager Neal Huntington says Harrison will be out longer than day-to-day and could miss the rest of the season.
The Pirates don’t expect there to be a drop-off in play at second base. Sean Rodriguez is starting Sunday and Adam Frazier has lots of experience at second, as well.
“We feel as good at we’ve ever been at a position if we’re going to have an absence of play from Josh to back it up with Rodriguez and Frazier,” Hurdle said.
Frazier has gotten most of his recent work in right field, but he says he’s comfortable either in the infield or the outfield.
“I just have to be ready wherever,” he said. “I played middle infield my whole life, so I guess I have more experience there. … J-Hay went down last night and I don’t know what the extent of his injury is, so maybe [playing time] will swing back there.”
With lefty Brandon Finnegan on the mound, the Pirates chose to put shortstop Jordy Mercer in Harrison’s leadoff spot in the order. Mercer has batted first 21 times this year, mostly against lefties, who he has an .861 OPS against.
BELL BACK TO SCHOOL
Josh Bell was drafted as a right fielder, and he’s been putting in a lot of extra work at the position since coming up to Pittsburgh. The reason for that is a big one: the 21-foot high Clemente Wall. Not only is it challenging to deal with due to its sheer size, it also is made of a mix of materials that include chain-link fencing and concrete that can create weird bounces.
“That’s the position that I got drafted playing and I played the first couple years of professional ball there. It’s just getting used to that wall out there and getting reps with [coach Rick Sofield] during the workday.”
The biggest challenge is back off the wall in order to play the carom, as opposed to staying with the ball all the way to the warning track, like he would with a traditional wall, Bell said.
“The higher the ball is hit, the further off you have to be away from the wall,” he said. “If you get caught too deep, a lot of things can go wrong.”
Bell’s defense at first base has been a hot-button topic this season, but I asked Hurdle his assessment of Bell’s defense at this point in the outfield.
“After a misstep the other day on a high fly ball that fell down, the actual route accuracy [has been] very good,” Hurdle said. “The speed is good for a big man. Once he gets moving, he has some usable speed. The route accuracy has been good. We can pull all those numbers after every fly ball to track.”
Bell said he hasn’t looked at the Statcast data that shows things like top speed and route accuracy in his short time in a major-league right field, but he would if he made what he felt like was a good play.
“I see it on MLB Central and stuff like that,” he said. “That’s interesting. Once I make a pretty nice catch, I’ll go look at it and see how I did.”
With bench players David Freese and John Jaso already signed for 2017, the Pirates seemingly have their primary pinch-hitters set. But neither Freese or Jaso has much experience being a fourth outfielder as Matt Joyce has been this year. If the Pirates can use Bell in that role and fill in at first base with Freese and Jaso, that could help all three players get more at-bats while keeping the Pirates defensively sound.
“It’s a good thing,” Bell said. “You want to allow yourself to get on the field whichever way you can.”
COLE, KUHL BACK IN ACTION
Gerrit Cole will come off the disabled list to start against the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday.
“I’m feeling good. I’m looking forward to get out there and competing, give us a chance to win and just do my job,” Cole said. “It’s not ideal but you just have to push through it.”
To close the series on Thursday, Chad Kuhl will return to the rotation after having his last start skipped. His last outing went just two innings, and the Pirates were looking at skipping at least one of his starts down the stretch to watch his total number of innings for the season, so those two thoughts converged on skipping his last outing. But Kuhl is expecting to go the rest of the way now.
“There’s still hopefully a lot of ball left,” he said “The hope is that you take it now so that you don’t have to take it later.”