PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates' biggest challenge in the first 2 1/2 weeks of the season was arguably the frigid weather they encountered across the Midwest. They'll face a greater test the next six weeks without their sparkplug second baseman and leadoff hitter.Josh Harrison was diagnosed on Monday with a fractured
PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates' biggest challenge in the first 2 1/2 weeks of the season was arguably the frigid weather they encountered across the Midwest. They'll face a greater test the next six weeks without their sparkplug second baseman and leadoff hitter.
Josh Harrison was diagnosed on Monday with a fractured fifth metacarpal in his left hand, the same injury that ended his 2017 season a month early, and placed on the 10-day disabled list. Harrison was hit by a pitch on Sunday in Miami and examined on Monday in Pittsburgh by Dr. Ed Birdsong, the club's hand specialist, who delivered the frustrating diagnosis.
"He needs to feel what he needs to feel then focus on a healthy, encouraged, energetic recovery," manager Clint Hurdle said. "The men in the locker room have been through this before, whether it be here or other places. It's part of the game … Things happen. It challenges your depth and it gives somebody else an opportunity to step forward. I think we're built well for that."
Harrison was stung on Sunday by a Jose Urena fastball clocked at 96 mph by Statcast™. He hopped up and down inside the batter's box and then walked slowly to first base, visibly upset and in pain. He was seen by Hurdle and and head athletic trainer Bryan Housand before leaving the game, flinging his helmet down the dugout steps as he walked off the field.
"Obviously we saw how frustrated he was -- rightfully, all valid emotions," director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said. "He's determined to get back on the field as quickly as possible. There's some strategies in place that Bryan and [strength coach] Jim Malone and the Major League staff will keep the rest of his body in tune so when he's ready, he's ready."
Adam Frazier and Sean Rodriguez will spend more time at second base, with Frazier assuming Harrison's leadoff spot as he did Monday night at PNC Park. The Pirates called up Max Moroff from Triple-A Indianapolis to back up at second and provide depth around the infield. Hurdle will experiment with other leadoff hitters, most likely against left-handed starters.
But it will be difficult to replace Harrison's hustle and attitude. This spring, Hurdle dubbed the 30-year-old the Pirates' CEO -- "Chief Energy Officer." Harrison was hitting .263 with a .679 OPS and 12 runs this season.
"I'm pretty frustrated," Harrison said afterward. "It definitely [stinks] being hit. Guys throw hard."
Harrison would know that more than most. He was hit by a career-high 23 pitches last season, and the last one ended his All-Star campaign. On Sept. 2, Harrison was plunked by a 95.3-mph fastball from Reds right-hander Tyler Mahle; he was placed on the disabled list the next day and did not return.
This fracture is in the exact same spot, Harrison said. Harrison will miss about six weeks before returning to Major League game action.
While Harrison is sidelined, Frazier said he hopes to "take the bull by the horns" and make the most of his opportunity to play regularly. He doesn't believe the Bucs' first setback of the season will slow their early momentum, either.
"We've just been playing together, and each guy in the lineup's just passing it down, passing down the torch," Frazier said. "I'm just going to hop in and try to do what I've done in the past to help. I think we're in a good spot."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.