Posted on April 17, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Pittsburgh Pirates are about to experience their first bit of adversity in 2018. On Monday, the Pirates placed second baseman Josh Harrison on the 10-day. On Sunday, Harrison suffered a fracture of the fifth metacarpal in his left hand after getting hit by Marlins ace Jose Urena. The injury is expected to keep Harrison on the sidelines for at least six weeks. The Pirates have brought up infielder Max Moroff to take Harrison’s spot on the roster.
Ironically, the same injury ended Harrison’s 2017 season the second week of September. However, last September, the Pirates had little left to play for the rest of the season. Right now, losing Harrison for six weeks is a huge blow for the Pirates, who sit in first place in the NL Central after starting the season 11-4.
“You get hit by 96, you’re going to be frustrated,” Harrison said after Sunday’s game. “It’s one of those things, I stayed in to run last year. This year, I knew.”
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During Pittsburgh’s fast start, Harrison has been a key player for them. Prior to his injury, he was hitless in his last three games. However, before that Harrison was hitting .313 on the season with an OPS of .787. During the winter, there was a lot of speculation that Harrison would be traded. However, the Pirates decided to keep him, and they’ve been rewarded early in the year with Harrison serving as their everyday second baseman. He’s also served as the team’s leadoff hitter for much of the season, which could make his loss even more difficult to overcome.
The silver lining is that the Pirates appear to have an adequate amount of infield depth. Adam Frazier is expected to be the primary fill-in for Harrison, and that includes taking over the leadoff role. Frazier has 49 career starts at second base, so he should be fine defensively at the keystone. Offensively, he’s had limited at-bats early in the season, going just 7 for 28. Last season, Frazier had over 400 at-bats and hit .276 with an OPS of .743, so he’s capable of giving the Pirates solid productivity.
Sean Rodriguez is also likely to see some time at second base. It’s been a rough start to the season for Rodriguez, who’s just 3 for 17 thus far. Of course, after an injury-plagued 2017 season, that’s not a surprise. With more regular at-bats, he should be able to do better. In 2016, his last full season with the Pirates before signing with Atlanta last winter, Rodriguez hit .270 with an OPS of .859. If the Pirates need him to become a regular at second base while Harrison is out, he should be up to the challenge.
At the start of the day Monday, the Pirates held a 2.5-game lead atop the NL Central. That in itself is one of the bigger surprises of the baseball season. Of course, there are three teams within 3.5 games of Pittsburgh. It will be interesting to see how the loss of Harrison impacts the Pirates in the weeks to come.
While the likes of Josh Bell, Corey Dickerson, and Starling Marte have helped carry the Pittsburgh lineup, the Pirates have benefited from everything going their way early in the season. The loss of Harrison to injury is the first thing that hasn’t gone right for them. Time will only tell if the Pirates can lose Harrison and keep up their winning ways.