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Pirates notebook: Harrison compares his highlight reel catches

| Friday, May 23, 2014, 8:00 p.m.
Pirates right fielder Josh Harrison singles during the fourth inning against the Nationals on Friday, May 23, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates right fielder Josh Harrison singles during the fourth inning against the Nationals on Friday, May 23, 2014, at PNC Park.

Josh Harrison wasn't guaranteed a spot on the Pirates' roster, let alone major league playing time, in 2013, but he took to heart the saying that anything worth having isn't going to be easy.

He took the multiple assignments to Triple-A the right way, manager Clint Hurdle said, with a mixture of angst and openness to hearing what he needed to work on and why. Now, Hurdle said, it's fun to watch the work Harrison put in pay off with some spectacular catches and timely offense to give the team a spark in recent games.

His leaping catch at the wall in right field on an Ian Desmond fly ball ended Friday's game against the Nationals.

“Josh is playing the game like he had a hand in inventing it,” Hurdle said. “(It's) the backyard mentality. You get to lead off, you tag up, you score from first, you lay out, you make catches and that million-dollar smile he dropped on us in right field after he made that play, man, it doesn't get any better than that.”

Harrison made one fully-extended catch Sunday against the Yankees and another Thursday in the sixth inning against the Nationals . He said he's still not quite used to seeing himself on the nightly highlight reels.

“It's always a little different seeing (the plays) from a different perspective, seeing it on TV,” he said. “When I laid out for the one (Thursday) night, I was like, this one's as good if not better than the one in New York. New York's was good, and it was later in the game, but the one Thursday, I don't know. I just play aggressive. I just remember I threw the ball in, and (Andrew McCutchen) was standing over me, and I was like, ‘That must have looked pretty sick.' ”

Grilli returns to closer's role; Sanchez sent to Triple-A

Jason Grilli was activated from the disabled list Friday and, despite Hurdle's claims before the game that he would not immediately be the Pirates closer, pitched in the ninth inning to earn his fifth save and first save since April 14.

“I've got one available arm after Jason,” Hurdle said after the game. “He had to give us an inning. I wanted to give him an inning where he was comfortable. The ninth is familiar territory. He's got some skills. He's also got some moxie and experience.”

Hurdle said earlier in the day that they planned to take a similar approach to last season. Grilli came off the disabled list with a flexor strain Sept. 3, then made a handful of appearances in the seventh and eighth innings before returning to the closer's role Sept. 21.

Grilli said he would have been OK in whatever role he was given but added it felt good to experience ninth-inning adrenaline again.

“Nothing like getting into a one-run ballgame right out of the chute,” he said. “It just felt good to get back on the horse. It's like getting in that groove again and getting that one out of the way. But my confidence felt good. My fastball was live. I'm ready to do this again.”

Catcher Tony Sanchez was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis to make room for Grilli on the active roster.

Extra bases

Stolmy Pimentel left for Bradenton and is scheduled to begin a return-to-pitch program by pitching a one-inning simulated game Saturday. Hurdle wouldn't rule out an appearance with High-A Bradenton before returning to the majors. ... During the pregame ceremonies on the field, the Pirates honored first responders who assisted during last month's stabbings at Franklin Regional.

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