PITTSBURGH — Adam Frazier will play second base for the Pirates on Sunday.
Going forward, that might be a spot on the diamond he gets more familiar with. With Starling Marte returning to the roster on Tuesday, Frazier’s starting spot in left field will be usurped.
Frazier will return to a utility role, giving the Pirates’ three outfielders breaks and he’ll get more playing time in the infield, as well. Manager Clint Hurdle sees second base as the spot he’ll get the most work at.
“That’s going to be the primary spot,” Hurdle said. “He’s got experience at short. We need to revisit work days with more early work in the infield based on the resetting of the roster with Marte coming back. When (David) Freese is not in the lineup, we can slide (Josh) Harrison over to third, we can get Frazier in at second. But we are also going to need to revisit him playing at shortstop.”
Frazier being able to play at shortstop would be a big help for the Pirates roster, which has carried combinations of Phil Gosselin, Alen Hanson, Max Moroff and Gift Ngoepe all season in order to provide middle infield depth. But none of those players have contributed offensively at all, leaving the Pirates’ bench lacking. When combined with the fact that Chris Stewart is not much of a threat as a backup catcher, it’s essentially limited Hurdle to two quality pinch-hitting options for much of the season.
“Jordy (Mercer) can’t play every day,” Hurdle said. “We’re looking for somebody to find a guy to give Jordy a break when needed.”
Of course, Frazier would actually have to be able to play well enough at short to make that work and so far in his career, he hasn’t been able to do so. But he has shown the ability to take on a position and improve there when given additional reps and playing time.
Take left field. Frazier was pretty raw in the outfield when the Pirates moved him out there to replace Marte, but at the end of Marte’s 80-game suspension, Frazier is currently the team’s leader in Defensive Runs Saved with six in left field. That doesn’t tell the whole story, but it does show how far he’s come in a short amount of time.
“That’s the interesting thing about metrics,” Hurdle said. “Because it’s shown his efficiency at defending the baseball in some areas. The decision-making, the awareness, the first-step quickness, there’s a lot of other things you can measure and that Statcast can measure as well. I definitely think he’s improved with experience. He’s that type of kid. He wants to learn. He wants to grow. He wants to work to get better.”
Now, Frazier will again apply that work ethic and desire to grow to the infield. At least, for now. He knows that as a versatile player, he’s usually only one injury or trade away from being shifted across the diamond again.
“There’s no telling what will happen,” he said. “I’ve just got to say ready for anything. I’ll be ready to play today at second and then who knows, by the end of the day, I could be back out there.”
DOWN DAY FOR J-HAY
Harrison will get the day off. He’s been scuffling through a 5-for-42 (.119) stretch in the month of July. Hurdle thought the timing was right for him to get a day away from the diamond. With Harrison, his swing doesn’t have the same type of precise mechanics that some other players have. He has a feel for the baseball and when he’s on, he’s able to hit it wherever it’s pitched — even far outside the strike zone. When he’s not on, it results in him chasing pitches outside the zone and increasing his strikeouts. Hurdle said that with a player like that, it’s about pitch recognition and being honest about the approach in the batter’s box. That type of change in mental mindset often requires a step back.
“It’s almost like capturing a butterfly,’ Hurdle said. “If you go trying to catch a butterfly, you’re never going to catch it. You almost just have to be quiet and still and the butterfly will land on your arm. In his case, I think he needs to slow down, get a reset, eliminate negative thoughts and just quietly reset.
Williams (4.80) vs
C. Martinez (3.40)
— Alan Saunders (@ASaunders_PGH) July 16, 2017