Roles reverse for Pirates' Harrison, Hughes
By Rob Biertempfel
Published: Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013, 5:39 p.m.
DENVER — There are two things you'll see during a Pirates game only if things have progressed — or, as was the case Friday night, regressed — into the fevered, late innings of a blowout.
Jared Hughes batting and Josh Harrison pitching.
Not at the same time, of course. But you get the idea.
That's what it came to Friday, when the Colorado Rockies cruised to a 10-1 victory against the Pirates at Coors Field.
Hughes, a 6-foot-7 middle reliever, led off the seventh inning by taking the second at-bat of his career. It began with ball one and ended with three awkward hacks for a strikeout.
In the eighth inning, Hughes was replaced on the mound by Harrison, a utility infielder who hadn't thrown a pitch since Little League. Harrison got pinch-hitter Corey Dickerson to fly out to left field, stranding two runners on base.
Did Hughes or Harrison have the more difficult task?
“That's a good question,” Hughes said, and pondered it for a moment. “I'd say Josh's arm probably is better than my swing, so I had more of a challenge on the plate than he did on the mound. He actually commanded his fastball well. Maybe he's the Shark Tank's secret weapon.”
Working that one-third of an inning made Harrison an honorary member of the Shark Tank bullpen and earned him a new nickname.
“They told me I'm ‘Jaws' Harrison,” he said, grinning.
Harrison was the first Pirates position player to pitch in a game since Abraham Nunez — another diminutive, all-purpose infielder — got one out against the Chicago Cubs on May 30, 2004. The Pirates lost that game, 12-1.
The outcome was never in much doubt Friday, as the Rockies led, 9-1, after two innings. The Pirates managed only four hits after that.
Hughes worked 22⁄3 innings, an extended outing designed to take as much pressure as possible off the bullpen. With two outs in the eighth, Hughes walked Nolan Arenado, and Charlie Culberson singled.
Hughes was gassed. Mindful of his bullpen with two games still to play in the hitters' paradise that is Coors Field, manager Clint Hurdle turned to Harrison.
“You bring in another pitcher, and he could end up facing four or five guys, you don't know,” Hurdle said. “Then you've got to bring in another pitcher. So it's the risk vs. the reward. We told Josh to keep it low and don't get hurt.”
After he fought back the adrenaline rush of stepping on the mound in front of 37,000 folks, Harrison decided to keep it simple. Catcher Tony Sanchez nodded and put down one finger.
“I was just flipping an easy fastball,” Harrison said. “I didn't want to attempt to throw a changeup or knuckleball. Just throwing a fastball is hard enough.”
Dickerson, a rookie, hit two home runs in his first 70 career at-bats and hits .319 against right-handed pitchers. Harrison had one thing in his favor, though.
“I've been on the other side when I had to face a position player,” Harrison said. “It's never an easy feeling because you don't want to make an out, so sometimes you tense up. I was just hoping he'd hit it at someone.”
Dickerson fouled off Harrison's first offering and then, on a 1-2 count, hit a lazy fly ball to left field.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
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