Harrison provides spark for Pirates

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Pittsburgh's Josh Harrison (left) is second on the team with a .274 average and has a nine-game hitting steak. He has at least one run in eight of those nine games.    GENE J. PUSKAR/ASSOCIATED PRESS
GENE J. PUSKAR/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Pittsburgh's Josh Harrison (left) is second on the team with a .274 average and has a nine-game hitting steak. He has at least one run in eight of those nine games.

PITTSBURGH — Josh Harrison stood in a hallway deep inside PNC Park on Tuesday afternoon, trying to make his way to the field for batting practice.

One problem: His gloves made the going slow. And treacherous..

There was his middle infielder’s glove. His first baseman’s glove. His third baseman’s glove. Oh yeah, don’t forget the outfielder’s glove, the one that had spent the past six weeks tucked away in the back of his locker – until Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle told Harrison he’d be playing right field for the first time in four years.

Balancing all four gloves and a couple of bats takes some doing, particularly if you’re 5 feet 8. Harrison will manage, however, so long as it helps him keep his job, whatever it is.

The most exciting moment of Harrison’s day is when he walks into the clubhouse and checks the lineup card to see where he’ll be next.

“I always look,” Harrison said. “If I’m in the lineup I’ll see where I’m at and I’ll take my work there and if I’m not in the lineup I’ll try to take my (at bats) wherever I can get them.”

Those at bats are coming more often than ever. The 24-year-old spark plug is one of the few pleasant surprises for the run-starved Pirates, who open a three-game series with the Cubs today.

Harrison is hitting .274 – good enough for second on the team – and gained a piece of fame last week by breaking up a no-hit bid by Detroit ace Justin Verlander with one out in the ninth inning.

Harrison is riding a nine-game hitting streak since being elevated to the starting lineup and has scored at least one run in eight of those nine games.

Now the player who spent most of last season as Pittsburgh’s 25th man is becoming too invaluable to leave on the bench.

It’s a good problem to have for Harrison, a sixth-round pick by the Cubs in 2008 before being traded to the Pirates a year later. He’s worked his way up through the minors before breaking through last year as a utility infielder.

The Pirates told him in spring training if he wanted to stay in the majors, he’d better be ready for anything.

“He’s worked hard to become this versatile,” Hurdle said. “It’s going to play out well for him and it’s going to work out well for us.”


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