WASHINGTON -- When Josh Harrison signed with the Nationals in late July, the outlook was that if he was healthy, he could be a multidimensional contributor to the lineup. He’d battled through injuries and was held to 36 games last year, and he was looking for a turnaround in his 10th Major League season.
Harrison and the Nats have found a match.
“He’s just as advertised,” manager Dave Martinez said following the Nationals' 3-2 loss to the Mets on Thursday night.
The 33-year-old utility man has garnered praise from Martinez for his energy since joining the team. In the series opener, with four games remaining in the regular season, he didn’t ease off the gas, contributing two of the Nats’ six hits.
“Granted, last night we found out we were eliminated, but at the end of the day, there’s still some games left,” Harrison said. “Coming from a guy that’s missed some time due to injuries, I play every game like it’s my last, regardless of the situation.”
Harrison began the season in the Phillies' Summer Camp, but as Philadelphia's roster took shape, he requested to be released so he could look for a team that could use him immediately. The Nationals were dealing with injuries early on, and a do-it-all player such as Harrison could cover their needs. Over his career, he has played every position except catcher.
“You never know where you’re going to end up in this game,” Harrison said. “I’m blessed. I was fortunate enough to find a situation like this when it didn’t work out with Philly. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better place, a better group of guys.”
Harrison brought enthusiasm and a willingness to do whatever was needed. This season, he has manned first base, second base, third base, right field and left field, and has been the designated hitter across 30 games (19 starts).
“He’s fun to be around,” Martinez said. “He understands the game. He’s a true constant every single day. You never have to tell him to be ready. He’s always ready, no matter what. … For me, that’s what you want on this team. He fits in.”
Martinez and Harrison crossed paths years ago, when Martinez was on the Cubs' coaching staff and Harrison was a member of the Pirates. Their conversations about Harrison’s approach and passion stuck with Martinez. It’s Harrison's love of the game that appealed to him.
Martinez said at the time that Harrison should give him a call if he ever wants to coach one day but that they could be on the same side of the field before then.
Harrison is a free agent after this season, and he is firmly on Martinez’s radar.
“I hope when we sit back at the end of this year, when we start evaluating things and what we need, for me, he’s somebody we need,” Martinez said. “I love to have him. He’s great with the young kids. So there’ll definitely be some conversations about him this winter.”