Pirates' Harrison, Mercer, d'Arnaud jockey to secure middle infield utility job
BRADENTON, Fla. — Josh Harrison tries not to worry about whether the middle infield utility role is his to win or lose.
As far as what could give him an edge, he said he believes consistency is key no matter what position he is playing or whether he is starting or coming off the bench.
And when it comes to his competition, which includes Jordy Mercer and Chase d'Arnaud, Harrison said the only thing that matters is whether the team wins.
“We've come up through the minor leagues together, won a championship together,” he said. “We're all Pirates. We're teammates. We're family. We want each other to get better, and we all want to help the team any way possible.”
Harrison, 25, spent his first full season in the majors last year primarily coming off the bench, with 18 starts at shortstop, 18 at second base, nine at third and 10 in right field. He has appeared in 10 games this spring, with four starts at second base.
Until Thursday, he was 0 for 13, but he recorded the team's only hit against Tampa Bay Rays starter Alex Cobb, walked, stole a base and made a leaping catch at second.
Harrison said he struggled at times last season with consistency in his stance, particularly coming off the bench. He worked during the offeseason to get where he is able to lock in the feel at the plate whether he is starting or not.
“I'm definitely still working on it,” Harrison said. “It's one of those things where some days I feel good and some days not, but that's what we're here to do — work and get better.”
Mercer, 26, made his major league debut in 2012, and said the experience of being with the Pirates for 42 games last season has made this spring a lot different.
“I don't get too excited anymore,” said Mercer, who made 28 appearances at shortstop (nine starts), seven at second base (four starts) and one at third base. “I'm a lot more relaxed and having fun this year, which makes it a lot easier. It's a different feel. I'm not overwhelmed by being in a big league clubhouse.”
Manager Clint Hurdle said the Pirates have a lot of options at a number of positions, and it's too early to start gauging how the battle for any of the openings is panning out.
“We don't need to paint ourselves into any kind of corner,” Hurdle said. “I'm not going to be saying this on the 27th of March, but it's the 7th of March.”
Entering Friday night's game, Mercer had appeared in eight games, with four starts at shortstop; d'Arnaud had played in seven games, with four starts at shortstop; and Ivan De Jesus, acquired from Boston as part of the trade for Joel Hanrahan, had played nine games with one start at second. All four saw action in Thursday's loss.
Mercer wouldn't let on whether he thought someone has the advantage. But the competition has been strong, he said, and that's what makes it fun.
“We've known each other for a long time, and that helps,” Mercer said. “We get along great, so whatever happens, happens, and we're going to deal with it and move on.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates notebook: Sadler gets first Grapefruit start
- Burnett’s farewell tour wishlist has just 1 item: Pirates World Series
- Pirates notebook: Infield prospect Hanson used to playing elders
- Sawchik: Should McCutchen really get a huge salary bump?
- Ex-Brewers star Hart hopes to prove to Pirates he still can play
- Lincoln tries to rejuvenate career in second stint with Pirates
- Pirates willing to consider high salary to keep star McCutchen
- Rossi: Pirates better with Maz on scene
- Pirates notebook: Tabata rediscovering his power
- Pirates notebook: Team has big plans for newcomer Kang
- Pirates notebook: Mercer gains celebrity in Kang’s home country