Harrison getting groove back at plate

Harrison getting groove back at plate

PHILADELPHIA -- Josh Harrison went into Tuesday night's game in a 2-for-37 slump and, as the cynic says, came out of it in a 3-for-40 slump.

As 1-for-3s go, however, Harrison's was huge, a homer for the only three runs the Bucs had for the first six innings of the 7-2 win over the Phillies.

Whether it will also be recalled as a kick-starter, the swing that put Harrison back on the right track.... who knows?

As Clint Hurdle said, "Time will tell. "

"I'm just gonna watch him play," the manager added. "Give him more games and at-bats. I believe he'll find it, and be the guy we've seen."

Harrison, whom the guys at MLB Network picked this offseason as the National League's top third baseman, started at the position for the first time since Friday. That didn't send Jung Ho Kang to the bench, but to shortstop, replacing Jordy Mercer.

In the fourth inning, Harrison's hard work the past week paid off. With two men on, he followed Sean O'Sullivan's strikeout of Kang by jumping on his first-pitch fastball and sending it into Citizens Bank Ballpark's left-field seats.

"I was looking for something up in the zone, something I could get in the air," Harrison said.

"He got a ball up in the zone," Hurdle echoed, "and put a good swing on it."

Harrison is caught up in a truly captivating drama. One game into this season, the Pirates signed him to a four-year, $27.3 million extension. But the Bucs also placed an $11 million, four-year gamble that a great Korean Baseball Organization shortstop can be a very good Major League infielder.

Mercer of course is the other in this three-legged race.

And nothing would please Hurdle more than for the three of them to collude in making his daily decision tough.

"That would be every manager's dream," Hurdle said. "To have guys who are producing, playing well. You'd like everyone to play well. Those become decisions, when you get to that point, you have to make. And they actually become easier to navigate with guys when everyone is playing well."

"I want to be able to come in every day and do something to contribute to the team," Harrison said. "Tonight I had a chance in the fourth inning, put a good swing on the ball and it ends up going over the fence.

"It's a testament to the work I did the past week, to get my groove back."

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 and on his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.