Harrison turns soft grounder into double

Hurdle praises Bucs infielder's effort in win over Tigers

Harrison turns soft grounder into double

BRADENTON, Fla. -- When Spring Training began, manager Clint Hurdle asked the Pirates to do something many had not done. He challenged Pittsburgh's hitters to take their spring at-bats seriously, even if the results ultimately don't matter.

Looking to avoid another slow start at the plate, Hurdle hoped his hitters would treat these Grapefruit League games like any they might play in August or September. That mentality was best represented in the Pirates' 9-5 victory Sunday by a player known for his hustle, Josh Harrison.

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After slicing a double into the right-center-field gap in the first inning, Harrison swung at a high pitch from Tigers starter Matt Boyd in the third inning and bounced it back toward the mound. Boyd reached for it but whiffed, and the ball hopped into shallow center field.

Meanwhile, Harrison sped around first base and beat Anthony Gose's throw to second, turning what was essentially a comebacker into a double.

"Harrison does things that you see for the first time quite often. I thought the pitcher had a play, then the pitcher doesn't have a play, and he's dusting off at second base," Hurdle said. "That's the kind of game he plays. He's a backyard ballplayer.

"Whenever he takes the field, he's looking to make something happen. ... He was ready to make a play out of the batter's box."

Harrison preps for new position

That's the kind of approach Harrison carries at all times, and it falls in line with what Hurdle has preached this spring.

"Josh, those guys that have been around, they're core leaders. They create wakes every day," Hurdle said. "You can create a good wake, a positive wake and you can create a negative wake when you don't run a ball out. Sometimes those are opportunities they have to be reminded of, that we play the game a certain way and they're all held accountable to play it that way."

Around the horn
• Lefty starter Jon Niese (four innings, 65 pitches) and right-handed reliever Neftali Feliz (two innings, 33 pitches) got their work in at the club's Pirate City training complex, pitching in Minor League camp.

• Sunday's sold-out crowd of 8,771 was the third-largest attendance in McKechnie Field history, the club announced.

• Pirates president Frank Coonelly invited a few special guests to Sunday's game: Shaun Cunningham, his son Landon and their family. Cunningham shielded his son from a bat that flew into the stands during the Pirates' March 5 game against the Braves and nearly struck his face. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review captured the moment in a photograph that immediately went viral online.

• Catcher Elias Diaz served as the designated hitter in Sunday's game and went 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs. He is batting .471 with a 1.147 OPS this spring.

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.