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Hurdle intends to stick with hot-hitting Harrison

Hurdle intends to stick with hot-hitting Harrison play video for Hurdle intends to stick with hot-hitting Harrison

PITTSBURGH -- Following a four-hit game on Tuesday night, Josh Harrison's batting average rested at .319 -- fifth best in the National League, right between Yasiel Puig and Carlos Gomez.

However, you will not find the energetic Harrison among the league leaders, because he does not yet have enough plate appearances for that list. Qualification is based on 3.1 PAs per each team game, and Harrison was still a few dozen shy of becoming official.

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Pirates manager Clint Hurdle sounds committed to making sure Harrison gets there.

"We need to find playing time for Josh. He's playing tremendous baseball, as good as probably he's played on any level," Hurdle said. "I believe in Josh; let's give him an opportunity to do it."

This was a startling concession by Hurdle, given how Harrison got his opportunity a month ago to be an everyday player, and the team's current makeup. Harrison made a May 18 start that fit his bench-player profile: It was the second game of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium and the Yankees were starting a left-hander, so he spelled Pedro Alvarez at third.

Harrison got two hits that day, including a decisive home run. He has not been out of the lineup since. At first, he played right, pulling the plug on the tepid Travis Snider-Jose Tabata platoon. When Neil Walker was sidelined by an appendectomy, Harrison took over at second.

Now, Gregory Polanco is in right. Walker could be back in a week. Yet Hurdle does not at all sound like someone willing to relegate Harrison to his old bench role.

"You've got to gut out some of the tough times when hits aren't falling -- it's the first time he will get those opportunities as well," Hurdle said.

In other words, wearing a collar won't get Harrison the hook. He's gone hitless in only six of his 26 starts since May 18, and he's batting .330 over the stretch. He's hit .338 since bringing a .208 part-time average into May.

The most obvious way to keep the versatile Harrison on the field will be by having him rotate to spell rested players. Hurdle will have to be creative.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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